Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Mar 29, 2011

On the long drive home from an evening community meeting, after a busy (good but tiring) week I was reflecting on the fact that our work as collaborative leaders and problem solvers can be rewarding as well as stressful, tiring, and emotional.

I reminded myself that to help people solve contentious problems, we need to take care of ourselves first. It can be hard to step back from a drama or a puzzle.

So here’s my own list of how to sustain yourself first, so you can help and nurture others second. This list works for me, if you have other suggestions to add please let us know as comments on this entry:

1) Go outside—being outside can be profoundly spiritual or just a good way to get some Vitamin D– -too much florescent lighting does me in.

2) Keep learning—invest in professional development, learn new skills, read. Take on new challenges—new places, new techniques, or new issues.

3) Eat real food, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly—hotel Danish, late nights, and airplanes cause conflict resolution decay.

4) Let’s sustain our spirits—be in nature, go to religious services, yoga, or meditate regularly. Touching in with what gives us meaning nourishes our practice.

5) Reflect on practice and work regularly— meet with a group of colleagues, write in a journal or build new relationships. We can get stale if we don’t reflect on why we do and say the things we do when we are working.

6) Spend time with people who like and love you (or even a dog). We spend a lot of time attending to others; let’s make sure others are attending to us as well.

7) Play—go to the movies, read a book, go on vacation, do something that is fun. All work and no play makes for dull and burnt out facilitators and mediators

8) Last but not least—lighten up….look for humor in unexpected places, enjoy the moment, the world is going to keep spinning if you take a nap or go bird watching.

- Juliana Birkhoff

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