by Emilie Kosse

2020 is no joke, you guys. And you, being the super-awesome, deeply committed, beautiful multi-hyphenate that you are homeschooler/ partner/ community member/ parent/ caretaker/ volunteer/ employee/ chef) are just the one to cure all that is going on in society. 

While your enthusiasm is admirable, please keep in mind that there is a pandemic going on, and it is affecting every aspect of our lives: more people are reporting feelings of anxiety and depression; homeschool and distance learning parents/teachers and pod leaders are delicately trying to meet their learners’ needs, interpersonal relationships are being tested, and the sobering reality countless people losing their homes is frustrating and stressful. Your neighbors are struggling to feed their families. A coworker has become ill. Injustices and frustrations are occurring, voices are being raised, and collective stress is being felt.  All of these very viable reasons for why you want to roll up your sleeves and do the work. But how are you going to give your very best to someone else if you don’t show up for yourself first? 

You know how on an airplane during the pre-flight announcements the flight attendants make sure to tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others? Yes, even your children. The logic is that if you run out of oxygen, you won’t be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask. You know how to move decisively to help yourself. But helping others, although wonderful, rewarding, and necessary, can require you to navigate waters you aren’t as familiar with. And helping others before yourself can absolutely lead to burnout. 

Everyone runs the risk of burnout at any given time: it’s easy to become overwhelmed with work, schoolwork, teaching, managing extracurriculars, and ensuring the health, safety, and happiness of your family unit. What does burnout look like? Well, like so many things, it depends on the person. But in general, a person may notice a change in sleep patterns (either not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much), a change in appetite, susceptibility to illness, and constantly feeling exhausted. Other things like letting chores and personal hygiene go by the wayside, or becoming forgetful or easily irritated are signs of burnout, as well. In order to avoid these things, or if they have already happened, you should take a break. 

With the reality of COVID-19, things that once seemed easily attainable in order to help a person renew and reflect (Road trip! Hiking with family friends! Weekend drinks with the girls!) are no longer quite within arm’s reach. We have become quite good at adapting over the course of the past few months, and you must do the same with being kind to yourself. Here are some ways that you can put your mask on first: 

  • A cup of hot chocolate or coffee (“Can’t it be both?” -me, always) and a long, leisurely walk. If weather doesn’t permit, enjoy your warm beverage while relaxing with a puzzle!
  • A drive to the country or a body of water. You don’t need to go far! Just pack a meal or some snacks, go for a drive, and sit in nature. 
  • Curl up, nap, and catch up on your shows.
  • Yoga studio closed? No problem! You can do some of your favorite poses in your living room via YouTube when you’re taking a break from “The Office”.   I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene, Purple Valley Ashtanga Yoga, and Faith Hunter. Take a deep breath and lean into it. Michael Scott can wait. 
  • Nourish your body with healthy food: you know the rules…leafy greens, protein, fruits, and healthy fats. You’re not going out to eat anyway, so now is the time to experiment with fresh, healthy ingredients and to have fun in the kitchen. Look up some new recipes or consider using a meal kit service! 
  • Create an easy and realistic routine. I love a good list, but I also don’t enjoy overwhelming myself. Set clear, simple goals for yourself for the day. 

Looking out for yourself might take a few days or a couple of weeks. But when you feel centered, renewed, and ready to share that joy, you’ll know it’s time to put in the work to help your community. 

Now put your mask on.

MHA is a supportive voice for all in the Minnesota homeschooling community. We encourage those interested in writing for the blog to do so without bias for or against any religious group or political affiliation. Please email us your blog submission or requests.