The one thing they brush upon during graduate school for school counselors is “self-care”. I think they mentioned it anyway. I might not have heard it because I was thinking about my three part-time jobs, driving 2 hours to school, trying to schedule time to tape my counseling sessions for my CPL class, maintaining a social life, and figuring out where the heck I’d do my practicum.
Self-care is one of those things that is easier said than done.
I, for one, suck at it.
For starters, I cannot meditate. I cannot shut my brain off for a minute without some thought racing in and messing up my image of a plain white room. Therefore, my mind is always making check lists of the million things I need to do for other people – and I don’t put “self-care” on that list.
People are attracted to this field because they enjoy giving to others. Not necessarily items or money, but giving of themselves. Their time. Their emotions. Their concern. Their support. We give and give and give. And at the end of the day we’re supposed to “fill up” again so we’re ready to go the next day.
When I get home, I want to give my family my time and attention (and make dinner, feed the baby, have a conversation with my husband, get a load of laundry in, clean the kitchen, bathe the baby, pack for the next day, check my personal email, spend some quality time with my kid before she grows up before I know it, and walk the dog). I need to be in bed by 10 if I have any prayers of waking up at 5:45 the next morning, so that gives me a solid 5 1/2 hours to get everything done – and the last on the list? Self-care. That bubble bath I’ve been meaning to take for the last year and a half. That pottery wheel I used to spend hours on in college. That long phone conversation with a friend (without a crying child in the background) that I’ve been wanting for weeks now. That new television show I wanted to get lost in for a half hour. All of that sounds so luxurious now.
But with work I give, and give, and give – my attention, time, patience, love, compassion, energy, sympathy, and care for 300 students in my building each day. So when I go home, I feel as though I am scraping the barrel of myself to give to my family. How can I possibly give to myself?
The ironic part of it is, counselors go into this profession because for the most part it is our nature to give to the point of imploding. It is what makes us good at it. But it is also what makes us burn out of it.
I often think how long I will last in public education. When will it be too much. When will I no longer replenish my energy each night; each weekend; each summer. When should I take a step back? There have been nights I’ve come home after a day on the phone with social services, handling a tough parent, or dealing with a crazy schedule sobbing, telling my husband that my next job I just want to address envelopes and lick stamps. I want a completely un-emotional job. One without drama, pain, and people-work. One I won’t feel so strongly about. So I can have the energy I want to have for my family and myself.
I don’t have the answer. I’m still searching for it. And I’m a huge hypocrite. I do a guidance lesson about “handling stress” and yet I don’t follow One. Single. Tip. So if you have found this miraculous fix for the fixers of the world (preferably an easy one-time application that doesn’t involve meditation), I think you should package it up and sell it on Amazon. And I’ll take a few shares in your stock