Middle Grade Monday – Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First
“Secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others secure their oxygen masks.” If you’ve never flown, it’s part of the instructions given in the pre-flight safety review on commercial airlines. It does make sense, since you aren’t going to be much help to anyone else if you pass out from lack of oxygen. And anyone who needs your help is probably not going to be able to help you. I like to think of this instruction in broader terms, though. This is the time of year when things become overwhelming for school librarians. It’s the last quarter of the school year – anything that is going to happen this year needs to happen NOW. Also, it is the time (especially for middle school) when students seem to really lose the thread. Rules? What are those? I can’t blast a Beyoncé music video from my laptop speakers in the middle of class work? What? I’m sure the same is true for public librarians in the months leading up to summer reading initiatives. Booking guest performers, costumes, events, gathering and ordering materials and prizes, promotion, etc., all while being bombarded by students who need specific books to qualify for reading program ‘points’ at school. Everyone needs help and they need it now! What’s a public servant to do?
First things first – secure your own oxygen mask. You aren’t going to be any help to others if you are a stressed out nightmare. It helps if you know yourself well enough to be able to prioritize the things that will help you manage your stress levels and stay on track. It also helps to realize that you have limitations as an individual, and that is NORMAL. Finally, it helps if you have the time/money/resources to enact some of these stress relief programs. I know I’m uncommonly privileged in this respect, so take what I have to say with a grain or two of salt. Also, you do you. Some of the things I’m going to talk about might stress you out more.
- Acknowledge that your job is difficult/demanding, and that you may need to let someone in on it. Who do you have to talk with? Do you have personal or professional contacts who will listen to you and share their own stories of life in the library? Much has been written about the effectiveness of PLNs in the past few years, but my favorite thing about mine is that I have a group of people who really understand me. Make time to be with these people. Stay in touch through email, text, and social media. I’m honestly not sure I would have survived the past two years without the connections I have to the others who write for TLT. Find your tribe.
- Are you getting enough sleep? I know some of you don’t have the option, but try going to bed a little earlier. Maybe turn off your electronic devices earlier in the evening and read a little to help you get sleepy. I actually have a lot of social obligations that continue way past my bed time. The one thing I’ve found to say that helps people understand when I need to leave early is, “I’d love to stay, but I have to go to bed so I can be kind to 12-year-olds tomorrow.” It works.
- Are you drinking enough water? It’s difficult to be kind to 12-year-olds when you have a headache because you are dehydrated. This will also help with allergies, which tend to be worse in the spring (yay) right when everything else is adding to your stress levels.
- What are you eating? We’re lucky enough to live in an age when there are increasing amounts of somewhat healthy convenience foods (baby carrots, individual packages of hummus, etc.) and some of them are even comparably priced to unhealthy convenience foods. Fill your shelves with easy to grab, healthier options. Your blood sugar levels will thank you.
- What have you done for yourself lately? This doesn’t necessarily have to be something that costs money. Have you gone for a walk? Do you have 15 minutes to go sit in the sunshine? Have you put down all of your professional reading and read something just for you? I recently plowed through all of Gail Carriger’s adult titles. I don’t have any professional way to justify this, but goodness it was fun!
Be honest, we didn’t go into librarianship to look out for ourselves. Many of us are in the stage of life where we seem to be taking care of everyone else around us. If we don’t stop to make sure that our needs are being met, how long will we be able to go before we pass out from lack of oxygen?
Filed under: Middle Grade Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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