When the Teacher Becomes the Student
Over this past year, I have been teaching and coaching about being resilient in the time of COVID. Writing, speaking, and coaching about reducing stress, investing in positive thoughts, taking care of yourself first, and other epic(!) ideas always kept that information in front of me. And I firmly believed in everything I spoke about. I made it my goal and a personal challenge to continually look for something positive every day and focus on that.
I believe I did well throughout this coronavirus pandemic. Many people benefitted from my knowledge about brain health and toxic stress. But I have to admit, the longer COVID went on, the more vulnerable I became to stress. Stress is insidious. It starts releasing chemicals throughout your whole body before you are even aware that you triggered the stress response. My regular stressors like finances and my family, all seemed to be humming along nicely. Until none of it was working right anymore.
I am sure many of you understand what I am about to say. This is especially true if you are a tad older and didn’t experience any women’s rights while you were working or having kids. This isn’t necessarily generational, and the virus really highlighted all of the responsibilities women have when they work at home, take care of their kid’s school day and then become a wife in the evening. The pressures build and BAM! – burnout.
When I truly understood how toxic stress could change my brain, I knew I was in trouble. There I was talking about a brain healthy lifestyle and I wasn’t sleeping, eating lots of carbs and only getting sporadic exercise. But I did realize I was in trouble. That was a plus. So, what did I do? I have a very good friend who is compassionate and empathetic and has listened and mentored me for a long time. She would understand what I was going through. It is funny; we have never met face to face. But we are the closest of friends and confidantes. We have worked through difficult circumstances before. That friendship is so vital because life can be very hard – as we have witnessed.
Have all my words been hollow because I was the person facing burnout? Definitely not! If nothing else this experience has deepened my understanding of the importance of friendships. It has allowed me to feel the pain that others feel and that gives me insight into solutions. I did go back to the blogs I wrote and the presentations I gave on toxic stress, worry, anxiety and depression. Since I have lived these words now, I feel empowered to be of service to other women who are totally burned out too.
Our brain is magnificent. We have given its power a run for the money. By looking deeply into how I was handling my worries and then acknowledging the consequences of my thoughts, it allowed me to device a new plan. Having a plan sounds stiff and ineffective when you are in such an emotional state. But quite the opposite is true. When you can’t think clearly, pull out your ‘plan’. It will be simple to follow and clear to understand. Take that path to feeling better and turning your life around. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise. Look for the opportunity in all of your pain.
Your stress, anxiety and lack of a defined endpoint to this situation need not keep you immobilized. Talk to a friend, join a group, love yourself, and congratulate yourself for all of the crises you have averted and the problems you have solved.
This too will end.
Patricia Faust, MGS