I hit my limit this week. I hit my limit on the amount of negativity and pushback that I could hear. We all have limits. I’m no exception. I thought about writing something else this week. Something instructionally-focused, but I think I’m supposed to write about this. Because this is a reality. We aren’t always going to feel good in the work.
I can recognize when I’m hitting my limit because normally I can let things roll off my shoulders a bit more. Normally, I can see the good in most situations and people. This week felt harder. I found myself shutting down my feelings and saying things like, “It’s fine. At this point, I’m dead on the inside.” I also found myself being more sensitive to what other people had to say instead being able to step back and ask myself whether there was something I could learn here.
Even the most positive and empathetic colleagues in our schools have limits. We are allowed to be human. We are allowed to struggle. Being a human being is messy. I think it’s supposed to be. Being a deeply feeling human being is even more messy.
This time of year is hard. April in our schools is hard. We’ve been working really hard all year and for many of us, this is the most difficult school year we’ve seen in our careers. So, when you can feel that you are hitting your limit, don’t judge that or question that. You don’t need a specific reason to rationalize it. The weight of this entire school year continues to be felt by all of us.
That being said, it is my responsibility to figure out how to be OK. It is my responsibility to figure out how I can show up in ways that productive and healthy for the people around me. Staff and students alike.
Here are a few things that seem to be working for me:
Limit the Inputs
In schools, there is a lot coming at us at one time. It’s hard to turn that off. I find that if I’m not thoughtful about it, I try to do more than one thing at one time in moments when I don’t have to do so-even in that hour before bedtime. I don’t have to be on my phone while watching tv. In fact, I think my phone makes me feel worse on some days. Yet, I am always wanting to be on it. When I’m at the gym, that hour away from my phone is nice. When I take a walk and listen to music or a book, that 45 minutes away from my phone is nice. Notice how you feel when you take a moment away from something like your phone. How might you limit the time you spend on your phone outside of your work day? Is there something else that’s overwhelming you? How might you put a limit on that thing?
Call A Friend or Colleague During Your Drive Home
This week I called a good friend who is also a colleague during my drive home. I didn’t call her to complain although we both lamented parts of our day. Instead, we talked about what was good. It felt good to be reminded of how thankful I am to have her in my life and work. It felt good to celebrate little wins. She texted me later that night to say that how much she appreciated that call. Honestly, it also shook me out of my gloom and doom mindset and reminded me that there was much for which to be thankful.
Do Something Kind for Someone
Sometimes, the thing we feel like we need the most is the thing we need to be for other people. Acts of kindness simply feel good and make other people feel good. It doesn’t have to be big. I bought some cards this week and wrote some notes. I gathered coffee orders from colleagues and brought coffee to a meeting that I knew was going to be long. I sent texts at the end of long days to colleagues when I caught myself thinking something positive about them. It made me feel better. It reminded me that it’s not all bad out there. And that there is good in every person when you look for it.
Decide to Believe People are Trying
In one of Brene Brown’s books, she talks about how her therapist asked her once if she believed that people were doing the best they can. Brene laughed and said no. Brene thought her therapist was lying when she said she herself believed they are. Later, Brene asked her husband, Steve, who replied with something along the lines of, “I don’t know if people are doing the best they can, but it makes me feel better to believe they are.” I’ve never forgotten that. It does feel better to believe that whether it’s true or isn’t. And many times it’s true. So when I can feel myself feeling really frustrated with someone, I try to remember this. This is not appropriate in all situations, but in the ones where little things are really grating on my nerves, I think it’s helpful.
We Aren’t Pizza
I’m done hustling for my worth. I spent my twenties doing that, and it’s exhausting trying to make everyone happy. It’s exhausting trying to “prove” myself to other people. Everyone has an opinion. Even when we involve others in decisions, at the end of the day, decisions have to be made. We have to do what we believe is right even when other people disagree. We can’t make everyone happy. We are not pizza. I say this to myself a lot. Sometimes the grumbles of other people shake my inner peace. So, I have to speak back to myself and shut that down. I don’t want to miss out on this beautiful life because I’m replaying someone’s complaint over and over in my head when at the end of the day, I won’t even remember that thing five years from now, and I bet they won’t either.
So, feel what you need to feel and then do what you need to do to be OK. The best way to take care of other people and those we serve is to take really good care of ourselves.
And if all else fails, I guess we could go stand in an open field and scream. That might feel right too.