Dear Mandy, How do I heal this summer?

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

Dear Friend,

You have come such a long way over the last 18 months, it’s truly incredible. Have you celebrated that? When you reflect over the past year don’t forget to appreciate how much you grew. All factors considered, it may not feel like something to appreciate and maybe it’s not fair that you were put in that position, but celebrate anyway. What you’ve accomplished is nothing short of amazing.

But that’s not what you’re asking me. And the question of how you heal really isn’t the right question. What you want to ask is, “How do I start to heal?”

And that’s a loaded question, you see, because your journey to healing did not start nor will it end with the pandemic. Every way you reacted over the last 18 months has been based on how much effort you’ve put into your healing prior to the pandemic, how much resilience you had built, and how many strategies for dealing with any mental health issues you had found. But we can’t always stare in the rearview mirror or we will crash, so it is amazing that you’re looking out the front windshield.

But it’s awesome that you recognize the need to heal and you’re ready to start. Please allow me to give you some starting points.

So much of what we suffer from can be dialed in to two issues: identity and belonging. We need to know who we are and we need to know where we belong. Our brains are literally wired for this. The last 18 months challenged both of these. So much of who we believe we are was challenged through multiple lenses. And where did we belong when we felt like our identities weren’t as strong as they once were? If we were changing, was everyone else? And better yet, who the hell are we in the first place?

So much of my work in educator engagement is based on the emotions that happen behind the education curtain that make people want to leave the profession. The two main issues being burnout and demoralization (although there are a total of six categories that I regularly name).

If I ask you who you are, is “being an educator” one of the top three answers? If your answer was yes, and I have now spent the last year challenging everything about being an educator, you may be feeling demoralization. Demoralization is when your moral obligation to make a difference in this world is challenged, and I believe that it boils down to an educator identity crisis. If I have challenged the very thing that makes you the person you identify with, it is going to make you question everything – even the continuation of being that person and if the risk of re-finding out who you are outweighs the reward of being that person and staying in the profession.

Burnout is, of course, about our own lack of boundar