Empathy for YOU in Uncertain Times (Reflection #9)

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

We are living in an uncertain world especially now during this pandemic. Just living during this crisis impacts how we handle what we do and how we react to stress. 
Stress is when you have multiple pressures that demand too much of you psychologically and physically. When you are stressed, you may believe that if you can just get everything under control, you will feel better. Stress involves “too much.” Stress can be perceived as negative if we don’t know how to react to that stress. There are signs that the stress you believe you cannot handle may be leading you toward burnout. 
Being burned out means feeling empty, without any motivation, and beyond caring about what happens to you. When you experience burnout, you often don’t see any hope of positive change in your situations. Burnout means “not enough” or cannot cope anymore.
Table 7.1 Stress vs. Burnout (From page 116 in Define Your Why)

Stress (too much)
Burnout (not enough)

 Characterized by over engagement
 Characterized by disengagement

 Emotions are overreactive
 Emotions are blunted

 Produces urgency and hyperactivity
 Produces helplessness and hopelessness

 Loss of energy
 Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope

 Leads to anxiety disorders
 Leads to detachment and depression

 Primary damage is physical
 Primary damage is emotional

Serveyev, A. (2019). 16 Important Signs You are Heading for Burnout
I know I’ve felt “too much” many days and “not enough” more than I would like. I’ve heard this from teachers, parents, and students. Covid19 is a worldwide crisis, and no one has ever dealt with a situation like this in over 100 years.
Everyone in the whole world is living with uncertainty during this pandemic. Educators who are stressed or possibly burned out told me that they are not able to balance work and home, especially when teaching remotely. Their own children may be learning remotely and they feel responsible for their learning. Or they were asked to teach face-to-face without the proper safety procedures in place. Or they’ve been asked to teach a hybrid version that adds even more stress. 
Breathe. All of us need to pause and breathe. 
I read Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and have been following her for years. What I’ve learned is that it takes courage to be the authentic you. This video on empathy helped me understand the difference between sympathy and empathy and what it means to care about others. Empathy is feeling with people  https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw  
Empathy is about caring for others, but it also means caring for YOU. Educators and other professionals who serve others tend to not take care of themselves first. It is not selfish to take care of you, but many of us went into education to be there for kids first. We need to put our mask on first. Because of the demands of teaching remotely during this pandemic, educators can become easily overwhelmed and find that they cannot handle stress or issues in their own lives. This constant stress takes a toll on us.
How are you now?
I find myself not handling life as well as I used to during these last few months. I’m having trouble reading or finishing a book I started. I’m not able to focus on tasks as I did before. I’m listening to other educators who are telling me the same thing but they don’t feel comfortable sharing that they are feeling sad or scared or stressed. That is especially for teachers who are supposed to be strong and model strength. Several teachers told me that they felt shame for the way t…