Wednesday, February 7, 2018

On Self-Care and Work/Life Balance

Happy National School Counseling Week! I decided it couldn’t be a more perfect time to bring some life back into my blog again.

I got a great journal last year called The 52 Lists Project. Each week, there’s a different list to fill out, which is a fun and different way of journaling. With the new year, I was looking back at my first week’s list, “List Your Goals and Dreams for the Year”. One of the things I wrote was “Compartmentalize --> Work/Life Balance.”

When I excitedly began this blog over the summer, I forgot how mentally and emotionally draining the school year can be. I’m enjoying my new job, but it’s had its challenges and many nights I just couldn’t bring myself to even scan through Pinterest pages, let alone update my own blog. I feel a little guilty for falling off of my blogging when the school year started, but I know it’s what I needed at this juncture, and it leaves me more refreshed to continue the work I’m doing happy and healthy. And now I feel excited and inspired to write again! And what better topic to restart with then self-care.

As counselors we learn about self-care for ourselves and encourage it for others.  Yet sometimes self-care ironically can feel overwhelming – do I need to set aside time in my day to meditate and drink herbal tea and get a massage? (Not that all of these things aren’t wonderful.) I’m coming to learn that self-care can be as simple as a change in a habit. Here are some of my self-care strategies I’ve been picking up. Hopefully they’ll help you too!

1)    I won’t check email after work. This tip probably isn’t new, but it’s important. And truthfully, I’m not always the best at following it. But I’m definitely way better than I used to be. And when I give into temptation and see I have a dreaded email from *that* parent I leave it closed. Because I have not yet received an email that couldn’t wait until tomorrow and I don’t expect that to change. And because checking email after work almost never lowers my stress.

2)    “I don’t have to fix that” Maybe it’s my people pleasing nature, maybe it’s the nature of the job, but sometimes I feel like I have to find solutions and fix everything for everyone always. But I have been trying to use “I don’t have to fix that” as a sort of mantra, a reminder that what I have offered to that student, that parent, that teacher is enough. That sometimes a parent is just going to be mad at me because they’re frustrated with the situation and I am the safe target. Or that sometimes the student who cried it out in my office yesterday about a friend issue is still having that friend issue, and none of our conversation seems to have stuck. But in either of these cases I could be there for them and that can be enough.

3)    I am allowed to exist as my own person at work. I’ve described to others that sometimes it feels like during the day I am a vessel for other’s thoughts and feelings. My existence revolves solely around being there for others, and it feels like my actual self gets put into a box in the corner for later. But ultimately school counseling is a profession and not my raison d’être and it’s okay if I need to take 10 minutes and shut my door and read something funny on the Internet, or eat lunch alone and in silence and think about an upcoming vacation, or just take a few deep breaths. I find that returning to my own life for a moment can allow me that little bit of perspective to handle a tough situation with a fresh take.

What are the self-care lessons you’ve learned that help you? Share in the comments!

P.S. I am setting a goal for myself to do more regular updates (and have lots of ideas for posts), so expect more soon! 

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