“I don’t even recognize my own face in the mirror,” my graduate school classmate said to me, as we packed up our things after another late night of SOAP notes and studying. I could relate. It wasn’t our tired eyes and dehydrated skin that she was referring to (a result of exhaustion and living on coffee and peanut butter sandwiches), but to the way in which our lives and identities had changed over the course of our two-year program.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had started living in what I like to call the “speech bubble.” The only books I read were textbooks; my only exercise was walking around the school clinic to pick up clients. I fell out of touch with many of my non-SLP friends and missed out on dinners with my family.
When I landed my first job and started my CF year (hooray!) I found that I continued much of this same behavior. Only now, I felt an even greater desire to learn, do, and know it all. This is engrained in out personalities as SLPs- we are passionate, hard working, and dedicated to our jobs. We love our work and our students! But don’t forget to also love yourself.
Your upcoming year as a CF is going to be intense and full of learning opportunities, just as graduate school was, and you will need to dig deep to absorb as much of it as possible. But if- between scheduling, planning, performing intervention and evaluating- you find yourself blowing off that yoga class or working on an IEP during movie night with your children, you will quickly find yourself burned out and back in the “speech bubble.”
I encourage you to remember to take time for yourself. Find an art class to take in the evening, join a gym, read a book you enjoy or go for a walk with someone you love. Think about returning to the hobbies that you enjoyed before you started on this fabulous speech journey.
Not only does this help to keep the “burn-out” at bay and prepare you to give 110% the next day at work, it also encourages relationship building and greater engagement with your students. Your students will love to hear that your favorite sports team is also their favorite sports team! And those who disagree can work on facts and opinions to convince you otherwise. If you enjoy gardening, bring a plant to your room and plan an Earth Day unit or talk about seeds and plants. If you are a musician, incorporate song writing or instruments into your therapy. Your students will be excited to learn about your passions and you will get to talk about something you love.
You are awesome, caring, and smart. Your life is full and well-rounded. By finding balance and prioritizing your time, you can be sure that you will never lose sight of those qualities, and will always recognize yourself in the mirror.
Author: Natalie Simon, M.A., CCC-SLP