We’re coming to the end of an academic year spent wrestling with the pandemic, which followed a summer spent wrestling with the pandemic, which followed a spring semester spent wrestling with the pandemic. Most of us are exhausted and burned out, and many of us feel demoralized. We have screwed up every ounce of energy we’ve had to make it to this end point, and now comes a dizzying array of emotions: relief, grief, the ability to breathe again, panic, disorientation, and joy.
We’ve been so busy surviving for more than a year that many of us haven’t had an opportunity to explore our emotions about that year. So I offer these writing and/or thinking prompts for people to take some time (as and when they have it) to pause, reflect, and take stock of what the last year-and-a-bit has been like. This is not necessarily a list to work through in one sitting, but could easily be something tackled bit by bit over several days. Necessary disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. These are simply the questions that I have been asking myself as I process this momentous period of time.
Processing all of this is one way to step into whatever comes next, with all our hopes and fears about transition. I hope this is helpful.
- Sit, stand, or walk around in whatever environment speaks most profoundly of peace to you. (This, for me, is sitting somewhere indoors, quiet and still; for others it might involve music or other sound, or being outdoors.) Take a couple of depth breaths and tune into how you’re feeling in this moment. List your emotions.
- Spend time with that list. What does it feel like to take stock of all those feelings, or even lack of feeling?
- Think of the things you’ve lost over the past fifteen months. That might include the loss of loved ones or time with beloveds, but it might also include professional identities, your sense of purpose, or the thing you loved best about your job.
- As you take stock of those losses, how do you feel? Is there a way to honor those feelings somehow – to express them? Can you tell someone else? Can you light a candle? Can you go for a walk and simply spend time in acknowledgement of how you’re doing?
- What did you discover about yourself during the pandemic that you would never have guessed otherwise? This could be things that you value, and it could also be things you wish you’d never learned.
- How does it feel to sit with those discoveries? Do you feel anger? Relief? Gratitude? Frustration? (There are so many more reactions besides.)
- What would you like to take with you out of this year+? What realizations? What hopes? What new ideas or habits?
- How can you honor having made it to the end of this academic year? What gift – time, space, music, flowers, chocolate, coffee, time with a loved one etc. – can you give yourself?
- What would you like to make of the coming months? Even if you are working, still, even if you are scheduled to the gills, is there something that would mark this as a transitional period for you?
- What affirmation can you offer yourself? What advice? What permission can you give yourself to do what is best for you?
Sending warmth out to everyone still teaching, still working, still planning, still building, and to everyone for whom there is a moment to take a breath in the coming days.