“Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” – Katie Reed
I’m Dr. Katie Raher, a part-time School Psychologist and part-time Education Consultant who specializes in educator well-being and social and emotional learning. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Communication Works, with their constant dedication to the well-being of their Speech-Language Pathologists, asked me to facilitate a support call for their team.
With sheltering in place, quarantining, shifting to teletherapy and distance learning, “homeschooling” for parents, managing a bit of all of these at one time, and more, we are in so much unchartered territory right now. Given these new variables in our lives, emotions can be strong, broad, and a bit all over the place. Uncertainty, stress, overwhelm, and anxiety are common emotional experiences on the roller coaster of these challenging times, and truly normal responses to what we are facing.
To be able to make the most impact on clients and families, CW realizes how vital it is that its Speech-Language Pathologists be supported with tuning in to the messages that these many feelings are sending and responding with acknowledgement, curiosity, compassion, and courage.
Support for well-being is broadly related to myriad benefits, including perceived health, healthy behaviors, longevity, mental and physical illness, social connectedness, and productivity. More specifically, from research on educators, the many benefits of supporting well-being then translates to meaningful effects on students and families.
That is, providing well-being support allows educators to give the world the best of themselves, rather than just what’s left of them.
For any efforts focused on nurturing educator well-being, research suggests that it is important to include a sense of feeling balanced and supported, opportunities to grow, and a community to support through challenging situations.
On the recent support call with CW, I facilitated 6 practices aligned with these factors, and one of the Speech-Language Pathologist’s testimonial about the effect of the practices on her capacity to fully support a client’s mother speaks to the invaluable power of this work.
I will share 3 of these practices in this first part of this blog series. Tune in next week for Part 2 of the series, in which I share the remaining 3 practices and the compelling success story from experience this type of support.
Practices to Nurture Your Well-being
Dr. Dan Siegel, a neuroscientist and expert in regulation, notes that we have to “Name it to tame it.” In acknowledging and naming our feelings, our nervous systems are better able to return to calm. To support you in naming it, journaling can be a powerful tool. Grab any paper and pen, and do what I call a “brain dump.” Write everything that’s real for you right now. What have you been feeling and thinking? Allow yourself to sit in these hard-to-have feelings and thoughts. Allow your thoughts and feelings to move through you and out onto paper. If writing isn’t your thing, you can sit in front of a mirror and speak your truth to yourself.
While every feeling you’re having is valid, and certainly normal during this uncertain time, it can also be helpful to release these emotions. While the journaling alone can allow for a great deal of release, it may also be helpful to take what you’ve written and put it in a box, crumble it, toss it, rip it, or even burn it (using environmentally friendly methods). I remember the first time I did this, and though I had thought it was a bit strange, the relief that came from this simple exercise was surprisingly huge, and I hope you experience the same.
We may be at a distance from one another right now, and yet we can still deeply connect from afar. To experience the most powerful benefits of connection, albeit virtual, you might want to consider vulnerably sharing some of the challenges you’ve been facing and the feeling waves you’ve been riding. Because vulnerability involves “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” according to Brené Brown, professor and researcher at the University of Houston, it can be scary to share our truth with one another, with courage being a critical piece of this powerful puzzle. And, when you bravely step out of your comfort zone, and describe the reality of your current situation with colleagues, family, and friends, you will be at “the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences,” as vulnerability is the “birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity,” as Brown’s research further demonstrates, and as life so elegantly confirms again and again. To benefit from this meaningful practice, call a colleague or other loved one and share what’s real for you. Having them hold space for you and maintain unconditional regard for you, paired with them apt to vulnerably share their struggles in return, you are likely to experience a whole host of positive feelings.
For those of you who were on the call, and for any of you who would like to begin incorporating some of these beneficial habits into your professional and personal life during these challenging times and beyond, I am hopeful that you can give 1-3 of these practices a go. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of the blog series so you can continue to increase calm and connection in your life and work, and make sure you give your clients and families the very best of you.
To sign up for a seminar covering all of these wonderful techniques, follow the link:
Prioritizing Well-being for Speech-Language Pathologists during the Pandemic with Dr. Raher
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM PDT
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