It was COLD. Teeth chattering cold. But, here we were, watching participants enter a chilly upstairs space filled with warm light and the smell of burning candles, and begin to take off their coats.
“Keep them on!” we interject. The facilitators (Heleya de Barros, Andre Ignacio Dimapilis, and I), were about to guide everyone through some sound therapy meditation and, hopefully, fruitful conversations around self care. We needed warmth!
Despite the cold, we were incredibly lucky to be joined by highly engaged artists, both teaching and administrative, who were willing to sit in silence through beautifully intentional meditation led by Andre, and to engage in personal conversations about the tensions between the importance of self care and the myriad reasons why we as non profit educators often put all of our focus on caring for others at the expense of our own self.
What INTERNAL factors prevent you from being your best self?
This question framed the workshop and there were many responses, which included anxiety, exhaustion, concern, and time. But there was one word that came up dozens of times.
Fear of disappointing others
Fear of not following through
Fear of failure
Again and again…
For the participants this sense of fear manifested in multiple ways, including:
Lack of joy in day-to-day encounters
It struck me as these discussions were happening, Arts Education Professionals often put on an armour, whether when entering a classroom or writing a grant proposal, yet we are often grappling with internal factors that debilitate us from embodying the attributes we hope to foster in the people we serve.
David Bayles, author of the transformative book Art & Fear, says:
Art is a high calling – fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, disguising themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others – indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best shot. What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. (Art & Fear, 2001)
The workshop sounds heavy. Well, for artists, our work and our self are intertwined. It’s personal. Once again, David Bayles says:
To the artist, all problems of art appear uniquely personal. Well, that’s understandable enough, given that not many other activities routinely call one’s basic self-worth into question (Art & Fear, 2001)
What I loved most was the conversations, while personal and vulnerable, opened up in to moments of lightness and discovery that left us buzzing. (The sounds of a Didgeridoo played during the Sound Therapy Meditation by Andre helped!) This buzz led us to many strategies, including discussions around finding good therapists, attending spiritual services, learning how to say no, and setting personal boundaries.
For this post, I want to highlight some key strategies that popped up around one of the greatest culprits of self care, Technology –
Consciously Disconnecting from Tech:
One participant told a great story how she was working so hard to cut down screen time for her teenage daughter, but realized she was spending just as much time procrastinating on her own phone. She came up with a tech cut off time, and now her family locks up their cell phones after 6pm.
I LOVE THIS.
BUT AM I BRAVE ENOUGH TO TRY?
Using Tech as part of your Self Care Routine
On the flip side, many participants advocated using tech to aid in self care, as long as it’s used with intentionality.
Do Not Disturb
Choosing specific hours in the day to be UNAVAILABLE. This looks like blocking out time on your work calendar if you are working in an office, or simply setting the DO NOT DISTURB feature on your phone during specific times where you want to completely focus on YOU.
Boomerang and Snooze for Gmail
Many arts administrators were frustrated by their constantly feeling like they are working, even outside of work hours. One strategy offered was to download Boomerang for Gmail, which is a free productivity tool that allows you to schedule emails to be sent in the future.
Snooze is an other free add-on that allows you to literally SNOOZE your inbox. Really, do you need to be receiving emails at night when you should be watching Schitt’s Creek? (I highly recommend you watch Schitt’s Creek)
For those of you in the room, thank you. Thank you for putting up with the cold, for creating warmth with your generosity and collaboration, and for helping create tangible takeaways.
Let’s keep this conversation going on our Teaching Artists of New York City Facebook Group. What strategies do you use to maintain self care?
Justin Daniel is the Associate Director for After School Programming at Opening Act, a Teaching Artist, and a Theatre Maker. A board member for the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, Justin co-chairs the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org