“So we will be trying something new.” – Program Director
My co-workers facial expressions went from relaxed to tensed and puzzled as the room filled with the thickness of confusion. We had been running on empty for about 6 months, at this point not aware of the affect emotional burnout had on all of us.
We looked at ourselves as youth workers full of passion, drive and the superhero syndrome. We worked with the most vulnerable youth, so in our minds they desperately needed us all of the time. The stories of hopelessness that surrounded us during that time covered us like a grey cloud. Our Program Director could see it in our eyes, at our weekly meetings, and through our encounters with one another. We were the definition of burned out. That morning, we sat in our weekly community meeting, already aware and ready to shut down any belief that our way of being could be transformed.
Our Program Director could see it in our eyes, at our weekly meetings, and through our encounters with one another. We were the definition of burned out.
“Over the next 2 months we will be participating in resiliency training as a group. It will be resiliency through Yoga. Participation is not optional. You all need this.” After about 10 minutes of her pulling teeth, we all accepted the fact that we could not talk our way out of this situation. Soon we found ourselves driving up to a white signpost labeled Rainier Beach Yoga and a black arrow pointed towards the garage. Our diverse group of outreach workers slowly walked with “wasted time” written on all our faces. We walked into the airy welcoming space and in that moment, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
Our instructor told us to grab yoga mats, “long pillows,” and get comfortable. She explained as we went through a series of poses on how resiliency needs to be present in our work and daily lives. An hour swiftly went by and she said, “As we come to a close, our last ten to fifteen minutes will be meditation.” Five minutes into meditation, I fade into the sounds of snores and peaceful slumbers, to be soothingly awakened to the calm ocean-like rhythm of our instructor’s voice.
Weeks go by… instead of Yoga being another item added to the exhaustive list of things to do, it became our sanctuary of rest, expression and comfort.
Weeks go by… instead of Yoga being another item added to the exhaustive list of things to do, it became our sanctuary of rest, expression and comfort. When our sessions eventually ended the majority of us stayed involved. Now we understood that our Director was right, “we needed it.”
I realized that if my goal is to continue my work with young people it’s paramount to be aware of myself and take care of myself. How could I expect to be there for my young people if I could not be there for myself?
I had already been an athlete, trained in boxing and trying to relive the glory days through rec basketball leagues and community centers. However, this meditated time added a new element to the way that I looked at my body, health and mind. Now that I am able to become present in the moment through body movements, I am aware of certain traumas that lingered from my past, pasted to my body like glue on paper. I realized that if my goal is to continue my work with young people it’s paramount to be aware of myself and take care of myself. How could I expect to be there for my young people if I could not be there for myself? If I wasn’t in a healthy place then how could I guide my youth to a healthy place? My road map is no help if it is tattered and torn.
Here are five ways I try to take care of myself throughout my week. Maybe some will inspire you as well.
- Exercise/ Yoga – At least 2 to 3 times per week
- Reading/ Writing – I try to read 3 or 4 times throughout the week and find space throughout the week to write at least twice per week
- Pause – Slow down throughout my day and meditate on the beauty around me in the PNW (Mornings I take a drive down Rainier Ave with Lake Washington on my left soaking in the sight.)
- Connecting w/family and friends – I love to laugh so my family and friends do a good job at helping with that
- Music – I am a big J Cole fan, Kendrick Lamar and I am getting into Aaron Copland who is a classical composer