Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others

We all know what it feels like to experience burnout.  These are times when everything seems difficult, simple things irritate us, and we tend to be harder on ourselves and others.  When this happens, we can feel helpless.  Thankfully, these thoughts and feelings are natural, and there are simple solutions we can apply to get ourselves back into the flow of the good life.  

When a car is running out of fuel, we find a gas station or charging station and give it a refill.  Human beings are no different.  When the lights are flashing red on the dashboard of our mind, warning us that we are feeling frustrated and tired, we must find ways to refuel our tank and recharge our batteries.  While this sounds simple, many of us have learned that it is selfish to think this way.  When we are experiencing burnout, our minds are likely to tell us that we do not have time to do something kind for ourselves. 

Recently, the understanding that we must tend to our mental and emotional well-being has taken center stage in the world of professional sports.  Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles, opted out of the team gymnastics final because she was not mentally and emotionally prepared to safely perform her routines.  Tennis star, Naomi Osaka, made a similar choice when she withdrew from the French Open earlier this year.  In basketball, players such as Kevin Love and Metta World Peace, have become outspoken advocates for the importance of mental health and wellness.  

This is great news for our world.  So many of the difficulties that arise in families, friendships, and working relationships can be avoided if we are willing to take care of our mental and emotional needs, instead of hiding them and thinking there is something wrong with us, or that these needs are a sign of weakness.  In my own case, addressing the anxiety that once secretly controlled much of my decision making, has opened me up to greater success and satisfaction in every area of my life.

Programs that support students in learning the skills required for this type of self-care have become a higher priority in our schools over the past year and a half, under the label of social emotional learning (SEL).  Educators have discovered that, by creating a space that allows students to voice their feelings and concerns, without fear of being judged, the whole learning community is strengthened.  Being vulnerable in this way cultivates bonds of mutual trust and understanding, harnessing the power that lies in our innermost thoughts and feelings, even when they feel challenging.

If you are feeling burned out, take heart.  Start by lovingly assuring yourself that you are not alone.  We are all prone to feeling isolated and overwhelmed.  Also, know that there is far more help available than you might believe in those challenging moments.  Sit quietly and breathe for a few moments.  Recognize that your well-being is the best gift you can give to yourself and everyone in your life.  By recharging your batteries, you will be able to go the distance in the areas that matter most to you.

Edward Biagiotti is an Education Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also the co-host of the “Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed” podcast on Spotify, and wherever you listen to podcasts.  For questions, comments, and ideas for future columns, send an email to EdwardBiagiotti@ccusd.org