The following article by Cheri Lovre was first published on the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) website.
Now more than ever, we need to take stock in what will see us through this time of uncertainty. School counselors are great at caring for others, but they don’t always care for themselves. Think of self-care as anything that moves you forward in a positive way. Clearly, there are no easy answers when it comes to self-care, but you can take a number of steps to improve your daily outlook, including sticking to a daily schedule, learning something new and adjusting your expectations.
- Stick to a schedule. The abrupt, total loss of rhythm in our days left many of us feeling adrift. Consider a schedule for weekdays and one for weekends – hour by hour each day. Alternate high intensity activities with rests or diversions.
- Shorten durations. We have less energy in general, and the focus we used to have al for self-discipline is now directed at survival—sanitizing and safe living. So let yourself do things in smaller doses when that’s helpful.
- Limit exposure to news coverage and social media, particularly graphic or emotionally laden content. Choose a couple of trusted sites for the content you need, and let that be enough. We need to be able to read as many positive stories as heavy or negative ones, or it just isn’t helpful.
- Create some rituals for connecting to what sustains you. What anchors you? Look for ways to connect with like-minded souls.
- Express gratitude, which creates a healthy mind and boosts immune response. Consider journaling about gratitude every evening. Try to focus your first morning thoughts one thing you’re grateful for.
- Laugh. We know that it changes the biochemistry of our brains and boosts immunity. We all need that right now.
- Learn something new, especially something artistic. Don’t expect to do it well; just let it take you to a different head space.
- Get enough sleep. And try to have a good sleep schedule. Don’t stay up too late.
- Eliminate stressors. Examine what you have to do and see if there are stressors you can eliminate. If you have been going into grocery stores, would it be less stressful to have them delivered or do curbside pick-up?
- Adjust your expectations. We are all going to have to do that over and over again as the crisis continues to unfold.
- Whatever you’re doing for others is enough. We are constrained by an inconceivable set of circumstances. Although none of us alone can do enough to make the difference, together we are all doing enough to make a difference. And for now, that’s what we can do.
- Find creative ways to meet needs. For instance, some school counselors are having “office hours” via Zoom when your colleagues can tune in, which means your down time isn’t continually interrupted. If people know they can find you tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. on Zoom, a separate meeting can probably wait. You might do the same for parents on a weekly basis. Consider posting an FAQ page on the school website where anyone can find resources and get answers to common questions. Also consider whether your administrator would allow you to host an opt-in weekly staff session where you can lead conversations about supporting students struggling with online learning. It’s a good way to reinforce the importance of teachers and administrators adjusting their expectations as well.
Perhaps most of all, let this thought guide you: Who we are now is laying the foundation for who we will become when this crisis runs its course, both for us as individuals and for our culture. Kindness is perhaps the most worthy gift we can give to others, and right now, it is what we need to show ourselves.