My brain screamed at me to not show shock or surprise. While my heart was busy jumping into my throat I focused on being as supportive as I possibly could.
We were wayyy over time. I was facilitating a small group of youth at a leadership conference & one by one they shared extremely difficult stories. Tears flowed freely. Language failed, as words could not describe the pain.
These were not traditionally vulnerable youth yet not one but several teens had attempted suicide. One young person’s dad was having a sex change operation. And another young women? Her best friend’s dad had sexually abused her.
I like to think I provided a safe, supportive environment as they processed these difficult life issues. I hope so.
Years later I ran into one of them & she gave me a little folded crane she’d made which I still have & treasure.
This is a dramatic example of what it’s like to work with humans. Over my thirty plus years of teaching & training all over the world I’ve been in a number of difficult situations with people facing tough stuff. Because when you’re dealing with people, that kind of stuff happens.
What doesn’t tend to happen though?
Trainers, teachers & facilitators having a good self-care plan.
No matter what subject matter they’re teaching great trainers inspire others. They encourage self-leadership, accountability & lead by example. Great facilitators encourage life long learning, resilience & grit. Great teachers roll with the punches, get up & turn it all into a teachable moment. And they use the action (learning by doing) & reflection (learning by thinking) cycle.
Often times as teachers, trainers & facilitators we are so focused on our participants that we forget about ourselves.
I’m here to change that. When I’m doing my training or trainer workshops I always include self-care.
And what’s more, self-care that fits. Because what works for self-care for you, may not work for someone else.
Here’s two checklists, one for your body & one for your spirit, to use to craft your own self-care plan:
Tip: never taught a workshop in your life? No matter, these self-care tips are very flexible & can be used in all sorts of situations.
For your body
- Water; water is your friend. Drink it to relax your throat & your vocal cords, which means you’re less likely to talk in that wavery, nervous voice. It also makes you take a pause (which makes you look really powerful btw).
- Stance: think about how you’re using your body. Amp up your confidence & fight stage fright by doing the starfish or wonder woman pose. I know it sounds odd but it works. Just put your hands on your hips & stand with your feet apart or with your hands above your head. Your testosterone levels will go up & your cortisol levels (aka stress) will go down.
- Temperature; if you’re anxious about speaking n front of a group, it can do funny things with your body temperature. The last thing you want to be doing is to be worrying about sweat stains so dress in layers so you can peel off if necessary.
- Food; have snacks on hand to fuel yourself.
- Sleep; get lots before you teach. That is all.
For your spirit
- Aromatherapy; I recommend having these 3 essential oils on hand – peppermint to pick you up if you’re tired, lavender to relax you if you’re nervous & rescue remedy if you’re dealing with a group that may be in significant conflict (note: always check for scent sensitivities ahead of time as the last thing you want to do is trigger an allergic reaction. My sis-in-law would thank you.)
- Trigger; depending on the topic you’re teaching, you may find yourself triggered. Be aware what can trigger you & have a plan that works for you.
- Sustenance AFTER; do what you need to after the workshop to wind down. For extroverts that might mean meeting up with some folks to debrief. For introverts it may mean a quite night & a long bath. Do what works for you.
- Feather duster; pay attention to what I call your brain ears are trying to tell you e.g. you’re going to fail, you can’t do this, everyone’s going to hate you etc. etc. Then simply banish them with a real or imaginary feather duster, while saying to yourself goodbye uninvited guest.
Now relax. You got this. The world needs more of your special way of effecting social change. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart in my mouth, for that.
And if you’re still anxious & need more self-care? Just smile & breathe out.