Let’s Talk…Your Oxygen Mask
We received a question from an early childhood professional that has been doing child care for 10 years and is experiencing some burnout. Caring for children can be rewarding, but can become draining if you are not taking good care of yourself. Think about the instructions a flight attendant gives you before taking off. When traveling with young children, who’s oxygen mask are to put on first? YOUR OWN! The reason for this is so that you are prepared to care for others. Yet, it often goes against our “caregiver” mentality – we work to take care of everyone else’s need before our own. The Mayo Clinic says you should ask yourself the following questions to see if you are experiencing burnout –
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?
So, what can you do if you think this describes where you are currently in the field?
- Get connected with other professionals in your area. Join (or start!) a local NAEYC group that gets together occasionally over coffee or frozen yogurt to network, build each other up, and offer support.
- Share your knowledge with others. If you have been in the field for a while, you are ready for some new challenges! Consider presenting a workshop at a conference on a topic you are passionate about.
- Work to balance your work life and personal life. What do you enjoy doing that you haven’t allowed yourself to do in a while? Go for walks, date night with your partner, start an art project, read a book. Take care of your needs so that you can be your best for the children in your care!
- Adjust your attitude. Your thoughts are under your control. When you find negative thoughts coming into your head, think about holding a remote control in your hand and “switching” those thoughts to more positive ones.
- Consider your options. If other attempts to adjust the burnout you are feeling have not been successful, perhaps it is time to consider a job change. Wearing dangly earrings and working with more adults might just be the change you need at this time. If you find you miss working with children, you can always come back to the field.
Two resources to share with you –
- All About Stress: Taking Charge fact sheet
- Iowa Concern Hotline number is available 24 hours 7 days a week at 800-447-1985. They also have instant chat, email an expert, and FAQ page.