People before Workers

About a week ago, I had an eye twitch. It went on for about a week, and it was really bothering me. It was so severe that I had to work really hard to keep my eye open which made it difficult to concentrate on my work and in meetings.

I could not figure out how to shake this eye twitch. I tried eating a banana. I tried eating more food in general. I tried drinking more water. I tried taking a break from artificial sweeteners and nutritional supplements. I tried falling asleep earlier at night.

I could not shake it.

The only thing I hadn’t tried was taking some time off work.

Until I did.

I had been planning a long weekend at the beach with girlfriends. And we took that trip. Last weekend. We enjoyed big laughs, big meals, and good talks by the ocean. It was glorious. And much needed.

And from the moment I woke up to leave on that trip, my eye did not twitch.

Not once.

And it hasn’t twitched since I’ve been back.

This isn’t a profound story. It’s merely a reminder to all of us. Time away from work is part of the work. I can remember on the days leading up to my time away, I was almost apologizing for taking time away. I tried to explain to people that I work year round. I mentioned how busy things get in the curriculum department over the summer, so it’s better if I don’t take all of my time away at that time.

It wasn’t necessary. People weren’t worried about it. I don’t think they were judging me. In fact, I think in the future, I should be naming more explicitly what I’m trying to model. That time away from the work is part of the work. My friend, Molly, used to tell teachers that over the weekend, if they needed something urgent they could call or text, but she was removing email from her phone, so she could recharge and be energized for the next week.

I love that. There is no badge of honor for not taking our personal days and vacation. There is no busy badge we can earn from working on the weekends and late at night.

We don’t have to sacrifice ourselves and our personal wellbeing to do work that matters deeply. To do work that is impactful.

Rather, if we take the time we need, we will be better rested and more emotionally available for others. This looks different for everyone. There is no one right way to recharge. But knowing ourselves and giving ourselves what we need is the first step to taking care of others as well.

We can’t pour from an empty cup.

So, listen to your body and your spirit. Listen to yourself the way you would listen to someone you love. If you are someone like me who compartmentalizes struggles, your body might be trying to tell you that you aren’t as OK as you are pretending to be. In my case, it was an eye twitch. But this can show up in many different ways including fatigue or irritability.

Go get what you need. Don’t talk yourself out of it. There is always something big or small that we can do to remind ourselves (and others) that we are people before workers. Worthy of the love we so freely give others.

What are you doing to rest and reenergize? Is it working for you? How do you know?

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