When my phone is depleted enough on battery function it prompts me to engage in “low power mode.” It recognizes that there could be some time between that moment and the time I’m able to charge it up.
My phone is programmed that way. Good thing, too. That programming saves me from being cut off in the middle of conversations, losing the ability to take that one last picture of my kids being a kids, or sharing a “thinking of you” text with my sweetheart.
If I didn’t respect and respond to “low power mode” my phone would simply stop sometimes. It would stop in the middle of whatever it was doing. It would shut down occasionally. Boom. Just like that.
“Sorry, no more phone for you,” it might say (if it could), “…not until you do the right thing and plug me in. I need a rest and I need a charge.”
Knowing my phone it might also say, “Consider wiping the sticky, dried coffee off my screen while you’re at it.”
Like my phone’s battery, my battery gets depleted. My power runs low, and even out.
Unlike my phone, I’m not programmed to suggest “low power mode.” I’m programmed to push until the, “no more phone for you” part, but for me it’s more like, “no more me for you.” It’s, “no more me for you, for me, or for anyone else,” when I push myself to the brink of “shut down” and beyond.
I see this happen frequently among the group of educators and parents I serve with.
We serve kids.
We serve kids because we feel called too do so, and serving kids is as testing as it is joyful.
We push ourselves to the brink of “shut down” before allowing ourselves to fail in the service of the kids we serve.
We’re very critical of ourselves, even to the point of occasional collapse.
Sometimes we find ourselves lying in bed, surrounded by wadded up tissues, a bowl of chicken soup on the nightstand, burning nostrils, throbbing head and stinging throat, wondering how it happened. Wondering why we simply shut down, and knowing full well at the same time.
When I think about my phone’s programming, I have hope for another way. A better way.
Let’s break it down into three states of being:
“low power mode.”
and “sufficiently charged.”
I typically start the day “sufficiently charged.”
I’ve slept, I’ve exercised, and I usually get to school with some time to spend in quite thought. The start of the day is an energizing and productive time for me.
During the day I experience a series of challenges and triumphs. It’s a bit of roller coaster. One that I wouldn’t change if I could.
Some interactions and events extend my battery while others require levels of effort and energy that use it up quickly. Both kinds are important. Both kinds are growth-producing.
I have a mentor who seems to know what to do and how to do it in every situation. It’s amazing.
When I ask this mentor how a person can be so adept at managing self and situations, I’m flashed a knowing smile and offered the words, “I’m old.”
Well, I’m old now. Old enough at least to understand what charges me up and what powers me down.
I’ve been trying this “low power mode” mindfulness strategy and it seems to be working. I’ve been simply focusing on staying present in the moment (an oldie but a goodie) and prompting myself to enter “low power mode” as needed.
Maybe I’m simply tired, maybe I’m engaged in a challenging interaction with someone whose well-being is compromised, maybe my well-being is compromised, or maybe I’ve just exerted too much energy for too long.
During times when I find that my battery being depleted too quickly I remind myself to consider “low power mode.”
When I can, I quickly recount a list of situations and activities that are meaningful, impactful to my mission and important, but that reserve my energy rather than deplete it.
I politely excusing myself when necessary and/or move into spaces where I can engage in less battery-depleting, and even energizing activities for a period of time while brainstorming ways to fully charge myself up again.
I’m finding this strategy benefits my leadership practice, strengthens the positive partnerships I work so hard to build and maintain, and enhances my ability to serve kids well. It’s been very restorative.
As educators and parents we are required to exist in the fray, and to manage it well. After all, we are the models of behavior and balance for the kids we serve.
When we remember to model mindfulness and self-care we enhance our kids’ ability to move through this fast-paced world with intact well-being and increased joyfulness.
Try to recognize when your battery is depleted. Go into your “low power mode” when you need to. Remove yourself if that’s what it requires. Take it easy for minute. Write in a journal. Draw a picture. Eat a snack. Stretch. You know what you need. Take it.
When you’re ready, re-engage at a comfortable, safe level. If my phone has 10% battery power I probably shouldn’t be streaming videos, but I might decide to look at or take a few pictures if it helps.
Then, make plugging in and powering up a priority. Take the next opportunity that comes along. Once you’re “sufficiently charge” you can get back at it full throttle.
Look after yourself.
You, those you serve, and those you serve with are all better off when you do.
In it together for the kids.
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!