I’ve never connected with the League before. It’s a new year and I’m trying to establish some new self-care routines but I’m at a loss. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I see others around me in the workplace seemingly going on with their day-to-day. How am I supposed to go about my daily work when it feels like the world is falling apart?
Overwhelmed and Unmotivated
Dear Overwhelmed and Unmotivated,
You mean 2021 didn’t fix all of our problems?! Grab a drink, this could be a long conversation! First, let’s acknowledge how you’re feeling. The world is a bit of a dumpster fire right now and I would be worried about you if you weren’t feeling overwhelmed. On top of our individual life stressors, we’re all living with a pandemic along with political and economic instability. Even writing this is starting to stress me out, but behind this computer screen you can’t see that.
This brings me to my second point. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean others around you aren’t feeling it. We all express ourselves differently. Use social media as an example. Do you really think all of the people who are posting pictures of how much fun they’re having are happy ALL THE TIME? Nope. They project an image of themselves for the world. We all do this. Your coworkers are doing this. A part of this is because we’ve been conditioned to separate our emotions from the workplace. We’re told, “You need to be professional! Don’t show you’re overwhelmed or sad or mad,” or anything else negative because that may be perceived as unprofessional. But you even asking this question is courageously demonstrating that vulnerability is important in all aspects of our lives, including the workplace, and these feelings should be normalized so we can support each other. So props to you for starting the conversation.
Now, how do you actually deal with how you’re feeling and take care of yourself? Unfortunately, as you probably already know, there isn’t a playbook for this, but I have a few suggestions:
- First and foremost, do what you need to take care of yourself. If that means taking a mental health day, half-day, hour, whatever, do it! Give yourself space and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling. This will likely entail having a conversation with your supervisor who is hopefully understanding and supportive. If they aren’t, well, that’s a whole other conversation, but at the end of the day, you won’t be very productive at work if you aren’t taking care of yourself, so decide what makes sense for you.
- Second, taking a day for yourself here and there can be great, but you also want to think about what you’re doing regularly for self-care. Establish a routine. Are you able to take some time every day for yourself to, for example, exercise, read a book, or have a glass of wine? None of these things sound appealing? No problem. Do what works for you! There are so many things you can’t control, so focus on the tangible things you do have control over that you can remove (e.g. social media) or build into (e.g. meditation) your routine and add these to your calendar. This can be hard with competing priorities from work and personal life, but still important. Maybe you’ve never been a big calendar person, that’s OK too. What works for me may not work for you. Try tapping into a friend to hold you accountable to this new routine with the occasional strongly worded text message or two. Motivation can be hard. Trust me, I know! Find what works for you and make it a priority.
- Finally, having a community that you can turn to and be open with is important. Try asking a colleague how they are REALLY feeling about things and perhaps that will lead to a larger conversation in which you can be vulnerable. Or, if work isn’t the place for this, then look towards family, friends, and other forums. Try seeing if there are any local organizations you may want to join. For example, I have colleagues in the San Francisco Bay Area that love BAYPIE (Bay Area Young Professionals in International Education). It’s local, intimate, and they have lots of happy hours and events for international educators to connect. You also don’t have to be in the San Francisco area to join considering everything is remote now! Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for The Global Leadership League which is my go to for building a sense of community and connection with colleagues in International Education. The Mentor Circles and Career Connections Program come to mind as solid opportunities to share with colleagues how you’re really feeling and, more importantly, to gain perspective. Wherever you turn, just know there are people out there who are feeling similar to you and are looking for the same kind of support you are. Take time for yourself, establish a routine that prioritizes you, and be vulnerable as you seek to connect with others.
I said this could be a long conversation but will stop myself here. If we were sitting together we’d be ordering our second drink! Keep me with you in spirit as you do some of these things to ease your feelings of being overwhelmed. Remember, it’s normal to occasionally have days like these. Own it and do what you need to in order to bring yourself back to center.
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Overwhelmed and Unmotivated? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.