Monday, August 20, 2018

Summer of Self-Care - Sort Of. Not Really. And That's Okay.

Y'all, where the heck did summer go? How is it August practically September?!?!

While I have no idea how this summer flew, I do have some reflections of the last three months that were.

In my field, we often talk about the relaxation and slower pace of summer. It's a time where we can breathe, where we can plan, and where we can do all the stuff we just can't do during the academic year.

Well, I'm here to tell you that the idea of summer as relaxing is a lie.

Although the truth is that some of that non-relaxation is on me. Because for all I do and say around self-care and stress management as an educator, sometimes I just don't get right. 

I had the opportunity to have a piece published this summer about self-care - Refilling Your Tank: Simple Steps for Self Care. It was a neat chance to write about something I'm passionate about and to get some positive feedback on it.

That said, it's also important to tell you I haven't always followed my own advice. I tell you this as the only way it gets better for me - or anyone else. Self-care isn't about always getting it right. Self-care is about acknowledging our limitations. Self-care is sometimes reflecting on those times where we do a sh*t job of putting ourselves first. Self-care is coming to terms with the times we exhaust ourselves and identifying how we can do better. Self-care is an imperfect and often cyclical process, but it's a necessary one.

This summer, I had some self-care wins - and I took some major L's. 

Let's start with the good. Prior to a long and potentially stressful trip, I "charged" up my batteries. Knowing I was going away, I took the time in the week before I left to do things that brought me joy, relaxation and/or happiness. While on the trip, I actively monitored how I was doing, steered clear of things that might deplete my energy, and found people/places/activities during my down-time to give myself a quick surge as I needed it. I've been going to conferences and taking work trips for 13 years now, and I can honestly say this is the first time I thought about travel in this way. Game-changer, y'all. I've had three trips since then, and using this mindset has been powerful. 

For all the prep I've done, I've also depleted the reserves. You see, I have a problem with the word Yes. It's my default setting. I overcommit. If I can do more, I will. And then more after that. And then just a little bit more. It's something I've written about on a few occasions here, and I'm back writing about it again because overcoming the default is a tricky battle, y'all. It's especially tricky when you play both hero and villain in said battle. 

I had the amazing opportunity to facilitate an emerging leaders program for my sorority this summer. One of the pieces of that curriculum involved the oft-used idea of "What would you do if you were not afraid?" As I prepared to facilitate that session, I had an epiphany that I then shared with the group. I'm going to now share that here. This isn't about doing without fear, rather it's about this - What would you do if you were afraid, but then did it anyway?

Take a moment and let that sink in.

Here's my fear y'all - I care what other people think. I care a whole lot. I care at a dangerous level. Another one of my default settings is that I craft stories around this. I speculate and predict how people are going to feel about my choices, particularly when I say No. Even when I'm saying No for a perfectly legit reason, things aren't totally perfect and/or I'm just accepting my human limits, I am worried about how others will perceive this. This results in a lot of tears, stress and/or other unpleasant emotions in life.

For me, I have to move beyond that fear. I can't be the person I aspire to be when I let this default setting take control. The reality is I need to take back control. Even more than that, I have to do this for my own well-being. Sacrificing myself on behalf of these fictitious stories I've built just isn't doing anything for me in life. 

Learning to prioritize me and truly care for myself will always be an ongoing process. I do feel like I'm more aware than ever of what I need, and this is now one of those #cannotunsee moments. As I reflect on all those times this summer that I actively leaned into the stuff I truly loved, took on what I could realistically do and/or intentionally crafted how I spent my time and energy, I realize that this is the story I must write more and more.

This summer, I didn't always get things right. Far, far faaaaar from it. However, I'm here at the end still living and learning. I'm here committed more than ever. I'm pulling out that "Andrea's Life" cartridge, giving it a good puff of air, and I'm going to put it back in hoping it works better this time.

I'm writing this today mostly for me. I need to put words to the good and the bad. 

I also hope if you find yourself in this similar funk you might know you're not alone.

And if you're me reading this in the future, here's something I wrote just for you. . . 

Hey, you're going to be okay. Try again. Take a deep breath. Say no when you need to, and take a moment before you say yes to make sure it's the right call. Don't worry about what others think, especially if you don't actually know. You do you. Seriously. Do you hear me? Read this again until you believe it. Okay, bye.