Creating a Clearing in the Woods
Each of you are exceptionally trained, intelligent, driven, and insightful. As individuals, we are acutely aware of how change and uncertainty is rippling through our lives, our country, institutions, organizations, neighborhoods, and families. Recent conversations in our community of scholars reveal common threads:
- Fatigue from suppressing the emotional underpinnings of thoughts about things like worst-case scenarios, separation from extended family, necessity of working in risky clinical environments, disappointment with halting key projects, and challenges of working/teaching from home.
- Sense that we could and should do more, ranging from ambitions for writing productivity to reaching out to students, colleagues, family, and friends.
- Feeling “wound up” and working more hours than typical, though eager for fewer demands.
- Frustration with the content and quality of media coverage.
- Anger about impact of policies and social changes, whether that’s because the approach seems wrong or the effect has cut us off from things we enjoy that are woven into our lives.
- Temptation to add new goals to “redeem the time,” despite awareness of risk for becoming overwhelmed.
- Mixed responses to video conferencing, which sustains connections and keeps activities on track, but is draining and undermines the ability to flexibly plan time to match personal plans.
- Trouble valuing “unnecessary” activities and enjoying pleasant pastimes.
Our lives are moving both too fast and too slow. We recognize demands but are more restricted and more stationary than ever before. The multiplicity of advice and resources for protecting mental health, supporting self-care, working and parenting from home, connecting with those with similar interests in virtual space, and helping others is growing exponentially (unlike the COVID-19 outbreak and chronic misuse of the word – yes, the media irks me too). We can even feel guilt for not finding time to investigate and share good information and positive messages.
Candor, grace, patience, and level-headedness are crucial for how we work, relate in community, and most of all treat ourselves. I have one wish for you. Create a clearing in the woods soon that is measured in hours, if not a day or more.
Do what you know works for you to turn off the interior and exterior noise: journal—list your fears, hopes, sources of anger, opportunities and random thoughts; exercise; create something…you know the list. The key is to DO IT soon, even if you are not feeling unsettled. Regardless of title and specific roles, you are leaders and we need you to be able to go the distance. Ensuring you are off the path to burnout and setting a sustainable and even enjoyable new pace is key. Be well.