In early November, Cohort III of the Strong Field Leadership Development Program convened in sunny La Jolla, California for our first in-person gathering since our kick-off retreat back in June. I was dressed for the low 60 degree weather in San Francisco but was unprepared for the 80+ degree weather in San Diego; it was hot.
For this gathering the overarching theme was self-care. After having a rough week prior to the gathering I knew this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. As expected, it was exciting to see everyone again, and to have the chance to reconnect. We met for a day and a half with topics that included: Understanding the distinction between change and transition, understanding the connection between self-care and sustainability and impact, working on an individual self-care plan, and lastly, connecting and building relationships among group members. While we were discussing change and transition, I was brought back to the dark days after we learned about our fiscal crisis last year. Then, Jill used a staff meeting to explain the difference between change and transition, which was so appropriate. To elaborate a little about change and transition – change is an event. It’s situational, outcome based, and relatively quick. Whereas, transition is the experience, it’s psychological, more process-based, and it’s gradual and slow. Transition is the process folks go through as they come to terms with the change.
The second day was focused on taking care of the self especially knowing that we dedicate so much time and energy to our work, our organization’s mission, and things that are going on in our personal life. It’s easy to forget to your individual needs when the work load is piling up, there are meetings lined up, or when everything feels like it has a short timeline. It is extremely important that all of us doing this kind of work are practicing ways to support ourselves. It’s essential for our well-being and also for the sustainability and impact of the work. There’s the classic saying that “You cannot care for others if you have not cared for yourself, which seems easy enough to understand but the follow-through is more difficult. Self-care is a practice; it’s not only saying, “I’ve had a rough week; I’m going to treat myself to a massage once in a while.” In addition, you’re doing little things that help restore you. Some examples of self-care practices may include two-minute breathing exercises after a difficult crisis line call, going for a walk on your break, actually taking a break, saying “no”, and the list goes on. Everyone should have a list of self-care practices that are customized for them. Some of mine include: having a collection of toys on my desk for my fidgety hands, listening to “Off the Wall” by Michael Jackson (listen to the lyrics and you’ll understand), trying to take an hour long break and not feel guilty about it.
In addition to the self-care discussion, each of the cohort III members created a self-care plan that was made up of five new goals and/or amplified things we already do. To be sure that each of us was going to be accountable for our self-care plan, the understanding was that we are to use our Accountability buddy (Individual Development Partner) as a support system.
Even though the SFP gathering didn’t feel long enough it was wonderful to reconnect with the group. I look forward to seeing them again in February, in Half Moon Bay.