The truth about working in childcare is that it’s hard work, I think it’s the hardest work and if it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s also the most important work. These two things can generate burn out in a person really quick. Feeling the pressure to be on it all the time when working with children can drown a person and feeling overworked, underappreciated and underpaid can come in waves. So the question is: how do you stop from drowning? How do you stop these feelings taking over your thoughts and pulling you deeper and deeper into a pit of negative thinking?
For the past several months I’ve felt all of this. Not knowing what to do, mind blown by my lack of passion for my work and stuck trying to convince all of the people that support me, that I’m a horrible teacher. I tried so hard to convince everyone that I was no good that I, in fact, convinced myself. I’ve felt burn out before but never to this extreme and its extremely scary. The thought that something I was so passionate about before brought me little joy was more than upsetting. Slowly but surely, I have turned my thinking around.
I talked to everyone in my core support system about how I was feeling. I got a ton of wonderful advice, to focus on what brought me joy in my work (I love a great diaper change where you can really focus on the child and not feel rushed), to write notes to myself, say positive things about myself in the morning and everyone was reassuring me that I was a good teacher. All of these pieces of advice helped me in somewhere or another. I just had to put them together in a way that made sense to me. I had to figure out my own way out of the pit of negativity even though I really wanted someone else to just pull me out.
I started by listening to self-help books on the bus to work. The first book reminded me that yes, this is the work I’m supposed to be doing. As I listened I noticed key phrases that other important people in my life said, like: “this is why we’re here, to make a difference in the way children are cared for.” I felt renewed and inspired. Despite these feelings I still felt over whelmed by negative thoughts. My husband got the brunt of those negative thoughts. He stayed strong for me and tried to pull me up and help me but regardless of his strength, I stayed right where I was in that pit.
The major turning point for me was when we got a call that my Grandmother-in-law wasn’t doing well. She was taken to hospice, they made her comfortable and helped her start the process of moving on. She was and still is such an important person in my husband’s life. As we spent time with her and said our good-byes, I needed to be strong for my husband, I needed to hold him up for once. At that moment I realized that I couldn’t be negative anymore. That my negativity directly affected how I cared and supported the people around me.
The next day I filled our apartment with signs of scripture and positive affirmations. I started a new audio book and gained some key phrases to say when a negative thought entered my brain or when I was working myself up to handle a tricky situation.
The key with burnout is to find a way out that works for you. Know that these feelings are okay, that they are normal and that there is nothing wrong with you! It’s important to be true to yourself and acknowledge these feelings. Negative thoughts and feelings can hide the real authentic you and who you truly are is who you should share with the children and families you care for. They deserve to know the authentic you and receive the best care so first, you have to take care of you! Keep in mind that through times of struggle there is always growth and that “this too shall pass”- Magda Gerber.