Supporting Ourselves and Others: Self-Care and SEL in the Age of Covid

Confession: I’ve never been much of a fan of the term self-care. It’s always felt a bit self-indulgent and brings up visions of the old Calgon bubble bath commercials. However, over the past few years, and particularly during the past several months of social distancing, I’ve started to see that self-care isn’t selfish at all. In fact, I’ve decided that my ambivalence around the term self-care is really more about my own ability to accept, receive, and surrender with grace. For someone who has made a career out of giving and helping others more than myself, this has been a small revelation.

I start with self-care because supporting Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a lot like being on an airplane; we can’t help others until we put our own oxygen mask on. Once we have taken care of ourselves and our own needs we are better able to attend to the needs of those around us. As we look to strengthen our school communities, it’s clear that the components of SEL need to be paired with instruction that is meaningful, engaging and offers content that challenges our thinking. Demanding content and SEL are not two separate endeavors, but two sides of the same coin. Learning doesn’t happen without community and relationship. And having a safe space and great relationships doesn’t mean that we are inviting students to think deeply about content.

As we think about how to best meet the social and emotional needs of ourselves, our colleagues, and our students it’s helpful to use the CASEL framework:

SELF-AWARENESS
As we process the current pandemic and racial injustices, self-awareness is critical to identifying and processing our complex emotions when things are uncertain and socially turbulent. Self-awareness includes our capacity to reflect on our strengths; understand our cultural, racial, and social identities; and examine our implicit biases.

  • Am I able to accurately recognize my own emotions, thoughts and values?
  • Can I accurately assess my own strengths and limitations?
  • Would I say that I’ve got a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset?”

SELF-MANAGEMENT
Self-management is critical now as we cope with grief and loss, develop our resiliency, and express our agency through resisting injustices and practicing anti-racism.

  • How well am I able to regulate my emotions, thoughts and behaviors in different situations?
  • How am I managing stress and keeping myself motivated?

SOCIAL AWARENESS
Social awareness allows us to understand the broader historical and social contexts around the inequities exacerbated by COVID-19 and ongoing individual and institutional impacts of systemic racism.

  • How well am I able to empathize with others and explore different perspectives?
  • How well do I understand social and ethical norms for behavior?
  • What skills and strategies do I have for working with people who come from backgrounds and cultures that are different from my own?

RELATIONSHIP SKILLS
Relationship skills are essential to help us build and maintain meaningful connections across race, culture, age, and distance. Through our relationships we support one another during collective challenges and collaboratively find solutions to new obstacles.

  • What might help me become a more effective communicator?
  • How well do I listen to others, particularly those whose background or culture is different from my own?
  • What can I do to build more cooperation among diverse groups?
  • Can I negotiate conflict constructively?

RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKING
Responsible decision-making is particularly important as we analyze the consequences of our individual and institutional actions on others’ health and safety.

  • Can I sense my own well-being and that of others?
  • How am I supporting constructive choices about behavior and social interactions based on safety concerns and social norms for myself and others?

Figuring out how to nourish ourselves is critical to being able to support others.  When we attend to our own social emotional well-being we can be more intentional about creating shared spaces that are safe and supportive for our others. Using an element from the CASEL framework, such as responsible decision-making or social awareness, can provide a focus for our conversations with colleagues or students.  Alternatively, we might use any one of these questions as an intention for a day, a week or longer.  For example, we might spend a day being curious about our habits for managing stress or exploring perspectives that feel different from our own.  Whether you take a warm bubble bath, go for a run, or nurture yourself some other way, I hope you will give yourself permission to take care of your own well-being during these unprecedented times.


Could you use support implementing these practices in your school or district? if you would like to participate in a free 1-hour session with Andra, please click here to express interest.

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