We’ve been called by others in our communities to ponder questions like “What can I do to take care of my community?” working with leaders in social fields, I pondered this question and too felt I needed to jump right into the action! But, once I jumped into action I paused realizing my emotions were driving my actions. I was emotionally spiraling instead of practicing serenity.

As Maya Angelou reminds us — “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” Being present is now ringing especially golden. With all the things that going on in the world (e.g. public health crisis, COVID-19, the economy, social/physical distancing), we need to notice when emotions are driving action — feelings like passion, stress, or overwhelm — a “just get it done” mentality. Instead, what you need is to be in the moment of what is in front of you, right now. Otherwise, we will suffer from burn out. We will always be called to serve others and, instead of springing into random action, just wait. Since service will always be there, practice being aware of the call when it is directly presented – we don’t have to do it all.

In my service overachiever rant, once I slowed my mind, I quickly realized the emotions that drove my service was creating emotional chaos for me. If you’re prone to burnout, you know that this can be stressful. 

In this emotional state, I had to make a point to counter the stories and emotions I was telling myself; a story of which is that I should be taking care of my community – Lone Ranger style. Instead, reflect on the service we provide to our community, then figure out how to do that better — as if what we’re giving is not already enough. Because if we are emotionally unhealthy, we cannot serve. We must take care of our emotional health so we can serve well. Here are some tips for being emotionally well and taking care of our emotional health in the emotional service of others. 

  1. Notice the emotion before springing into action – It takes practice to notice the emotion, ours or others, and how these are impacting action. 
  2. If we cannot name the emotion, just seeing it there will help us make better decisions on what to do. Sometimes you can notice this when watching other people individually or in groups. What do you notice? Chaos or lethargy?
  3. The emotions you notice outside of yourself is telling you something about yourself. What we notice in others, especially those closest to us, is probably something we need to work on within ourselves. Patience? Compassion?
  4. Consider doing the opposite of what your mind is telling you to do – if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed with all the community service available, realize this and take a break (at least for the moment). Trust me, there is an abundance of service needed now and you will still be called to service. If you take a break you’ll be able to show up fully for those you choose to engage. You will not miss anything.

We have to keep serenity, whatever that looks like for you, those at the forefront of health and community leadership reminds up that we are susceptible to burnout. Burnout and emotional health impact our ability to stay medically healthy. Boris Johnson and Chris Cuomo are teaching us that we’re all susceptible to illness no matter our leadership status. The best thing we can do for ourselves now is to try to practice serenity as much as we can.

Photo by Alessia Cocconi on Unsplash