We did it. We made it through the start of the school year.
Although I do not work primarily in education, it is ingrained in me that September feels like a marker of some kind. Perhaps this is because almost my entire family works in education, or perhaps it is because this was formed as a habit for me for many, many years as a student. Or maybe it is because I am now a mother with a child who attends a daycare and whose school year once again “started” at the end of August. Regardless, September always feels like an opportunity for a fresh beginning, even as my work continues without a major shift around this time.
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said. This continues to be a time of uncertainty in a world full of unknowns. I was recently supervising a group discussion with the topic centered around how people are unsure of how to provide support. On the one hand, people are more likely to ask how loved ones are doing, or to reach out spontaneously to someone with whom they have not spoken in some time. On the other hand, people are not sure what to say. It feels as if most people are in a funk with no real solution. Many people also feel self-conscious about complaining especially if they are in good health and hold a job as this can feel like a privilege right now.
Still, there is so much need to talk about. We may circle around it, or try to keep things conversational. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “You know, the world is a mess,” when asked how I am doing.) I brush my feelings aside because it feels like jumping down a rabbit hole and who even has time for that right now?
It is for this reason that we must create space and acknowledge how much support and compassion we all need at this time. Whether your life has gone on with some semblance of normalcy, whether your kids are home or in school, whether you don’t have kids and then feel a sense of “this should be easy for me”—whoever you are, there is space for you. You are allowed to have needs and you’re allowed to take up space and you’re also allowed not to know what you need, even if you know that some needs exist.
It is so difficult to find time for ourselves in a world where the outdoors can feel like a battlefield and your home may have become your office/daycare. This world where people’s jobs have been lost, where illness continues to ravage families.
But this can also be a world of hope, or at least of self-care.
I like to tell people, “Know when you are treading, swimming or sinking and then identify what you need to do for yourself—what is reasonable for each of those scenarios. Know when you may go from treading to sinking and what the proper protection can be.” There are some who actually need to keep on target for tasks and goals; otherwise, they may begin to sink. Or they may need to be a limit on how often they can discuss their fears without starting to drown in this mindset.
Know your markers and also know how to console yourself. Know what it would look like to go into the shallow end or to hang onto the side of the pool—if we are to keep up the metaphor.
If you don’t know, give yourself space (even a few minutes) to write down your thoughts, ideas and goals. Talk it out and seek recommendations from a loved one, peer, friend, colleague, or therapist.
You don’t need to have the answers. But you do need to let yourself feel, to find a way—notice I said ‘way,’ not even ‘ways’—to take care of yourself. This can be by showering daily, listening to a one-minute meditation, finding a quiet space to cry, venting, hydrating, journaling, etc.
This is a scary, confusing time, especially when so many of us thought that by now things would be “normal.” Life is going forward but this does not mean you need to feel ready. It is essential, though, that you be honest with yourself about whether you are taking care of yourself and if a change needs to be made.
We can get through this if we support and make space for one another. Check in on each other. Check in on yourself.
Temimah Zucker, LCSW specializes in working with those struggling with mental health issues and has focused her work on eating disorders and disordered eating. Temimah works in private practice with individuals in New York and New Jersey and is working virtually at this time and accepting new clients. Temimah speaks around the country on the subjects of eating disorders and mental health awareness. She lives in Teaneck with her husband, daughter and two dogs. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, visit www.temimah.com