Put Burnout on the Back Burner and Cook Up Self Compassion in 2022
by Laurie Garber-Amram, LCSW and Diane Kushnir Halivni, M.S.Ed
This. Is. Still. Hard.
And we wish it weren’t.
We wish we were wistful about 2021 coming to an end.
We wish the pandemic was definitively coming to an end.
We wish everything would go back to the way it was.
But, as Dr. Betsy Stone teaches us:
We’re not going back. We are moving forward as changed people. The brave new world we create must take our mental health – and that of our students, children and colleagues – into account.
And, we are tired, sad and grieving. We continue to manage the uncomfortable, the uncertainty, and the inconveniences. There are recurring glimpses of our ‘new normals’, and then —another adjustment, and we feel vulnerable, unstable, upended yet again.
Our principals, rabbis, chaplains, organizational leaders, health care workers, social service providers, college counseling staff, parents of all-age children, and adult children of older parents are also very tired, struggling with burnout and compassion fatigue.
And so, as we look ahead to 2022, let’s begin to imagine how we will recover from this crisis.
How do we do that? How will we seek more balanced ways of being? How can we strive for more calm? How can we be more at ease amidst confusion, uncertainty, and instability?
We might start with the basics: Shelter, Food, Water, Sleep (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs):
What do you need to feel safe? Routines and rituals provide a sense of rhythm, stability, and structure to our day-to-day lives. The consequent predictability helps us to feel more in control through this period of uncertainty.
Food and water as nourishment for mind, body, and soul. Nourish and revitalize your weary body by eating food as the source of your physical health and well-being. Drink adequate water each day (ask your medical provider what is right for you). As you hydrate yourself, consider pausing to recite a message of self-compassion:
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.
Additionally, you may acknowledge if you feel grateful for this glass of water, as water is the source of life.
Can you see sleep as an act of loving kindness for your fatigued body? What is a nice amount of sleep for you? Could it be more? As we continue to toil in the unknown, our bodies keep track of our stress. Let us declare:
2022 is the year of rest and restoration. Taking it easier.
Don’t try to do everything you used to. SLOW DOWN and preserve the energy we have and make this a year of additional rest-taking, with an eye toward replenishment. Don’t try to make up for lost time. No one can keep up the pace, and the enduring stress will come at a cost. We are only halfway through the shmitah year of 5782 (agricultural sabbatical year in Israel) so we still have time to align ourselves with our biblical roots and let the Holy Land, and our holy hearts, rest.
ACTIVITY (as appropriate for your age/stage).
Life is movement. All of life moves and pulses. What activity pleases your body? A stretch, a deep breath, a smile, a walk outdoors? Did you know that sitting is now considered the new smoking? Our bodies were meant for movement. Despite the heaviness of our times, there are abundant opportunities for joyful expression through movement. Remember those at-home dance parties we had in Spring of 2020? Did you learn chair-yoga with CJE Senior Life? How about an online workout you can do with a friend or as a family?
Once we meet our most basic of physical needs, we move towards fulfilling our social/emotional needs. Where, with whom, through what, do you find and make connections? This perhaps has been one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic. We may find ourselves alone, isolated, disconnected. On Zoom we can see unmasked faces. In person, we see a whole person with a mask. Perhaps you have learned that the relationship between you and your Self is the most crucial of all. As we wait for the new normal to manifest, consider befriending yourself.
The Dalai Lama tells us:
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
This is the time for exquisite self-compassion.
A time to tenderly ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”
A time to acknowledge that all is not what you thought it would be.
A time to see how bravely you’ve struggled.
A time to see so many in the struggle with you, side by side.
You are not alone.
The days of our lives present challenge and struggle.
Struggle is a part of life. Remind yourself that you will get through this as you have in the past. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale let fear and sadness go. Let yourself rest and relax in the moment. You will be OK.
As you meet your social/emotional needs with greater ease, you will notice the longing to feel valued and make a contribution to others in the world. There is no one right way to self-actualize. How you contribute is up to you. Your contribution might be flower boxes that delight others as they pass your home. Or you might contribute philanthropically. Or you might make and deliver a shiva meal to a friend or fellow congregant. The important thing here is that you are important. You can make a difference in an infinite number of ways.
The Pandemic has asked that we reinvent ourselves, our vision of who we thought we were, and how we thought our lives would unfold. Reinvention requires imagination. You might try envisioning yourself as the adult who takes the hand of your younger self and leads her through those harder times ahead. Tell her what you wish someone had told you back then. Now, imagine this advice in a futuristic way: Be the person your future self needs you to be. What does your future self-need you to be? What qualities are necessary? What must you allow in order to become who you must be?
There are many organizations, including JCFS Chicago, that can help you and your loved ones to be physically and emotionally safe. If you have questions or would like more information, call us at 855.275.5237.