Hurt upon hurt upon hurt…

This past week was painful all across the US as we bore witness to shocking acts of racism that tore open wounds that were nowhere close to healed. 

During a pandemic.

We had already planned to devote this newsletter to ways we can teach while also caring for our traumatized students by interviewing Dr. Lyndsey Moran from the Boston Children Study Center.* 

We had planned this because we are seeing collective exhaustion in our schools. 

Dr. Moran pointed out to us that when you are living in a drawn-out crisis like this one, it is a normal human response to push the stressors to your periphery. They’re STILL THERE, draining our internal “batteries,” but we fix our gaze on what’s in front of us. So we can move forward. So we’re not focused on the stressors at all times.

But this past week really made that impossible. The “slow burn” of those batteries accelerated. The stressors piled up and could not be ignored.

And they shouldn’t be. We need to pause and look at some very painful facts head on:
  • COVID-19 has disproportionately killed people of color.
  • George Floyd was murdered by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for eight minutes--in the daytime--in front of a crowd.
  • Floyd’s murder came quickly on the heels of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders--more names added to a grim list that reminds us that Black Lives are at risk every single day in this country.
  • The president incited violence as an appropriate response to protesters.
  • AND...we are still living through a pandemic.

We wanted to take this week’s newsletter to acknowledge the hurt upon hurt upon hurt we are feeling. Two particular articles shine light on this pain:

We decided--with Dr. Moran’s wisdom ringing in our ears--that it was necessary to pause and focus on TEACHER SELF-CARE in this issue . We work in a human service. We have to acknowledge our own humanity and needs before we can be there for our students. 

This week we want to focus on YOU, teachers. We want to acknowledge the pain that has built up over the last few months--and the added hurts of the past week. Next week’s newsletter we’ll share what we learned from Dr. Moran about teaching our students through a trauma-informed lens.
* Lyndsey Moran, PhD, is the Associate Director of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) at the Boston Child Study Center and specializes in evidence-based behavioral treatments for adolescents and young adults. In addition to her work at the Boston Child Study Center, Dr. Moran is an instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and is a research consultant and clinical supervisor at McLean Hospital.
The "slow burn" towards burn out -
recognize the signs and take time to re-charge
We all are experiencing a constant “slow burn” in the background of our lives. Adding an additional stressor like lesson planning, child care, etc. will have a more exacerbating effect in this context because you are already working with a “drained battery.” 

To combat this, Dr. Moran recommends that teachers take time off, “as much as they are able to” because, “If our teachers are getting totally burned out they are not going to be able to do their job.”  

Keep in mind that your pre-pandemic tolerance for work and stress will be different now. This makes it even more important to know what burnout feels and looks like for you, and what you can do for yourself to reduce stress.

Prepare for the Fall by using the Summer
to revisit or learn new stress management strategies
Dr. Moran’s advice for teachers to be able to start fresh in the fall (with whatever “school” looks like) is to spend the summer building up habits and routines that support your emotional and mental health. No matter what the fall brings, it will undoubtedly be more successful if you have strategies that work for you to manage and reduce stress levels, because it’s bound to be a stressful time.

Examples of this might include: 
  • Coming up with efficient ways to plan and prepare healthy meals
  • Finding or re-commiting to an exercise routine that makes your body feel good
  • Re-setting boundaries between your work and home life (especially since these spheres overlap so heavily during this time)
  • Connecting or reconnecting with people who help you feel grounded 

Dr. Moran acknowledges that “a lot of us have never actually concretely learned stress management. We just figure it out as we are going along and many of us don’t even know what our habits are.” This summer would be a good time to reflect on those strategies and if you feel like you are struggling to identify any that work for you, consider turning to outside resources. 

Speaking of RESOURCES...
Dr. Moran shared a resource with us that is meant to help people "weather the storm" of this crisis. Click HERE to access the full pamphlet.

According to the author of this pamphlet, Dr. Russ Harris, "when a big storm blows up, the boats in the harbour drop anchor – because if they don’t, they’ll get swept out to sea." This doesn't make the storm go away, but it helps the boat stay steady until the storm passes.

He continues, "in an ongoing crisis, we’re all going to experience ‘ emotional storms’: unhelpful thoughts spinning inside our head, and painful feelings whirling around our body. And if we’re swept away by that storm inside us, there’s nothing effective we can do. So the first practical step is to ‘drop anchor.’"

The pamphlet then walks through practical steps to help you manage the unique stress of this time, using the acronym F.A.C.E. C.O.V.I.D:

F = Focus on what’s in your control
A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings
C = Come back into your body
E = Engage in what you’re doing

C = Committed action
O = Opening up
V = Values
I = Identify resources
D = Disinfect & distance

Dr. Moran pointed out that there is an especially helpful link included in the pamphlet to a set of free recordings that vary in length from 1 to 11 minutes and are all meant as a guide to help you develop the skills needed to "drop anchor."

Student Writing
Teens in Print has always existed in large part to amplify marginalized youth voices, including those of Black teens living in Boston. We believe this is more important than ever right now. As an organization, Teens in Print supports racial justice and equality. We stand in solidarity with our students and community partners fighting for a better world.