Sometimes you have to put yourself first


By Janet Royal

More than two years have passed since our lives were turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have had to deal with uncertainty, anxiety, feelings of depression, isolation, illness and the death of loved ones. Add all of this to the challenges we may already have been facing before COVID-19 – financial hardship, health issues, relationship issues, job insecurity and many more. To say our inner strength and stability have been tested would be an understatement.

If you are reading this, you have most likely found ways to overcome, overcome, or overcome the challenges, obstacles, sadness, and disbelief that are part of our daily lives. It would be amazing if we could eliminate everything negative and surround ourselves only with positive things, but that’s not realistic. What has happened to us over the past two years will, in one way or another, be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

We need to find ways to take care of ourselves not only for our physical health, but also for our mental and emotional well-being. Be intentional about how much time you spend recharging and rejuvenating. When we see others suffering, it is common to feel conflicted between managing our own personal needs and helping others with theirs. At such times, just remember what is shared on an airplane during the safety demonstration: “If there is a change in cabin pressure, the mask will fall off. You should put your own first, then help others who need help.

Let me share with you some techniques you might want to rely on when the world around you feels like a battlefield instead of an oasis of peace.

Make your needs a priority.

Often, physical, mental, and emotional needs are put on the back burner during times of heightened stress and tension. These needs are interconnected and a breakdown in one area could put us at risk for disease. Be sure to eat foods that are both satisfying and nutritious. Try to move every day, knowing that it can feel very different depending on who you are. If going to a gym is right for you, great. A walk around the neighborhood can also get you what you need. And don’t forget that your body needs good sleep to heal and function at its peak.

Stop and breathe before making a decision.

Sometimes we rush to solve a problem or an emergency without taking “waiting time” which could result in a better choice. When our adrenaline rushes fast and furiously, it can cloud our judgment.

Don’t be ashamed to reach out to family and friends.

We humans are social creatures. The power of community can often bring peace and clarity to help us move forward in positive and productive ways. Sometimes you just need someone to listen to you. Inviting friends or family members to share their views can also help. You decide if it’s a monologue or a dialogue. Even if you can’t connect in person, a call, Zoom, or Facetime might do the trick.

Read and write.

Many people have found peace and relaxation in journaling – especially gratitude journaling – or reading. Sometimes just being able to write down thoughts and dreams helps you reflect and refresh, which in turn can bring some comfort and peace and help you find purpose.

We cannot do everything alone. Whatever the situation, you should always be honest with yourself and never be too proud to ask for help. As I’m sure you may have heard before, two brains are better than one. There will most likely be a need at some point in our lives where we feel the need to look to our families, our community, and perhaps even the medical community to provide the support we need to get well, and c ‘is OK !

Janet L. Royal is associate director of the NJEA’s Division of Professional Development and Educational Affairs and coordinator of the NJEA’s annual convention. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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