Cultivating Gentleness

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It’s not just schools that often lack gentleness. Workplaces can rub us raw too, as can public transit, shopping malls, restaurants, and daycare. The levels of noise, advertising, and stressed-out people dealing with other stressed-out people can leave us feeling bombarded and drained.

Creating more spaces of refuge, like public parks, is one option. But another option is to integrate gentleness into all our spaces and daily interactions. It could be something as small as turning down the music in cafés. Or as radical as a mother making the commitment to care for herself with as much tenderness as she does her family.

[and at the end of the day]…

It is me saying to myself: “I’m so in awe of you, I must treat you as if I truly understood what noble means.” It is me saying to others: “I get it. We’re wounded and taking a thousand risks simply by showing up. And I see that. I honor you.”  ~Andréana E. Lefton

 

Ms. Lefton writes about gentleness and how essential it is to a healthy human life.  She acknowledges that sometimes creating the physical or circumstantial changes that will allow for a calm and gentle flow to our days just isn’t possible in the short term.  But she reminds us that we can invite that  gentle energy in by taking opportunities to look for ways to create space – space that gives gentleness room to seep into the fabric of our days and inform our choices.  And she reminds us that we can honor ourselves and our experiences by being vulnerable and accepting support – and that we can honor everyone we encounter by showing up, listening/seeing with compassion and offering encouragement over criticism. 

 

Gentleness forms the under-song of survival — the hidden face of evolution, wars, famine — and the partner of resilience. It is the loving touch that reminds us we are not alone, and there is hope. There is healing.  Gentleness exists between people. And it dwells within each of us.

 

How do you cultivate gentleness within yourself?  When encountering others?

 

BURNOUT

BURNOUT

What causes burnout? Long hours, a job that is too challenging or not challenging enough, monotony, a long winter, a disconnect between the employer and employee values, being in a caregiver role, always being the one to ask “how are you today?” and responding appropriately to whatever response is provided……the list could get pretty long.  Whatever the root cause, burnout can have a lot of impact on day to day life.  According to psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, who coined the term in 1972, burnout is a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by a devotion to a cause, a way of life, or a relationship that has failed to produce the expected reward. Burnout is essentially a condition caused by passion and good intentions that have absorbed everything that is available to give.

 Burnout is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up.  – Helpguide.org. (Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A)

My day job is to support people as they figure out how to live in a healthy way.  I’ve been in my current position for exactly seven years, and though I truly value the relationships that I have with the people I interact with and can see the reason for most of the less glamorous job tasks that are required, last week I hit a bit of a wall.   And when I say “hit a wall” I mean in a head on collision, can’t function kind of way.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  So I spent the two days I took off work sleeping, getting a haircut that was two years overdue, walking along my favorite creek bed and doing yoga.   I feel better after four days away from the office, but it’s not gone yet.  My next step is going to be figuring out how to take some more time off.  We’ll see how that goes.  The good news is that my light is flickering on again, even if it’s dim.

Once we identify that we are experiencing signs of burnout and acknowledge what is going on, we can take strides to change what can be changed, accept what needs to be accepted, and shift our focus to remembering what really matters in life.  We can prioritize what is going to allow us live in a way that honors what we value. We can look the fear of ‘feeling burnt out forever’ in the face and see all the beauty that is still there, just under the surface.  Just past the strong front that we put up on good days.  Just behind the expectations we hold for ourselves without even recognizing their loftiness.

We can remember why we have been so devoted, and we can remember that to be devoted – to anything – we have to take care of our own needs.

For me, some of the important things to priotitize are spending time with my family, having authentic conversations with people, being outside, growing and cooking food, hearing my daughter giggle, digging in the garden and watching the sunrise.  When I can remember that those things are what matter to me (which can be REALLY hard to do when feelings of burnout have clouded everything else) I can break through the film of melancholy.  I can see past the frustration, fatigue and dread of the everyday.  And I can remember that I have a choice to let those feelings control my life, or I can look at them, accept them, and allow them to dissolve in whatever way they need to.

Burnout isn’t a nice place to be.  But it doesn’t have to be the landing place.

                                                                                                                                            

If you think you might be experiencing burnout, take a look at the following lists.

Signs of burnout can include:

􀂃-Emotions: anger, frustration, depression

􀂃- Impatience

􀂃 -Heightened fatigue

􀂃  -Melancholy

􀂃  -Ambivalence

􀂃  -Lack of interest in things you used to really find intriguing

􀂃  -Short term memory loss

􀂃  -Feelings of dread

􀂃  -Self-medication

􀂃  -Nightmares

􀂃  -Difficulty making decisions

􀂃  -Working at 120% then dropping to nothing

􀂃  -Not caring about something that usually matters a lot

Burnout prevention & self care strategies may include:

􀂃-Know yourself. Figure out what your values are.

􀂃-Create a support system.  And use it.  Ask for help.  Accept help when offered.

􀂃-Maintain a schedule that supports the lifestyle you want to live.

􀂃-Do three things per day that you truly enjoy. Even you only have time for three one minute things.

􀂃-Honor your wellness priorities: Keep running, do your yoga, eat your veggies, get your rest.

􀂃-Stay stimulated with learning. But accept that you don’t have to know everything.

􀂃-Take time off.

􀂃-Get 15 minutes of natural light (more is better) every day.  Even on rainy ones.

We all have a pilot light that doesn’t go out permanantly.  There is light to be found even on the rainy days.

Additional burnout resources are available from these sources:

Compassion Fatigue

Burnout Overview from Mayo Clinic