My Notes from #CLS2022: Rising Scholars - Post-Pandemic Life: Recovering From Burnout and Finding Motivation

Khalia Braswell:

Introducing the next Rising Scholars session: Post-Pandemic Life: Recovering From Burnout and Finding Motivation

Naomi Thompson:

About to start as Asst Prof of learning sciences @ Univ of Buffalo, working on the ways crafting/art-making/design activities can interact with & enhance learning equity in both formal & informal spaces.

Spending a few weeks with family moving into the new position has been a good boost at this point in the pandemic.

Janiece Mackey:

Dr. Mackey is a postdoc scholar w/Equitable Futures Innovation Network @ Rutgers but is based in Colorado (hello fellow remote postdoc), co-founder & ED of Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Action. Mother & partner.

Whatever I'm engaging in & whoever I'm engaging with must honor that my soul has to be connected to the work.

My wellness matters, especially for me to be a mom, which is my legacy, my most important work. (Dr. Mackey is speaking to my heart.) Putting transition time in between meetings. Doing phone calls instead of Zoom in order to b

Doing phone calls instead of Zoom in order to move away from the desk. Quoting Toni Morrison: "The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work." Dr. Mackey is refuting whiteness and focusing on Black fine

Tiera Tanksley:

Dr. Tanksley is an Asst Prof at UC Boulder & also faculty fellow at UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, working on critical race in education, sociotechnical infrastructure impacting youth.

Dr. Tanksley lives in LA and works digitally, always working with Youth of Color in urban settings.

Dr. Tanksley builds a schedule based on healing: sleeping in, daily getting an "overpriced, decadent-ass coffee" at a BIPOC, queer coffee shop and writing there. Nap, administrative work in the evening.

This is how Dr. Tanksley deals with the multiple pandemics and "the constant fuckery of the US." Asks: what can I do to make my life joyful?

Working with Black youth laughing and cutting up is healing, too.

Dr. Kimberly Hirsh (she/her):

BTW if you're near me in Durham, NC check out Rofhiwa Book Café for your own decadent-ass BIPOC queer coffee shop coffee. (I have bought books from them but haven't been in yet.)

Khalia Braswell:

What are some other things the panelists are doing like Dr. Tanksley talked about?

Naomi Thompson:

Reading for pleasure.

Janiece Mackey:

Being careful about who I work with, what contracts I take.

Naomi Thompson:

Eased into reading for pleasure with audiobooks.

Returning to things I loved.

Khalia Braswell:

It doesn't seem like there's an end in sight but we'll make it.

Mentor said "You're not going to be able to read for pleasure in grad school" but I do it just to prove her wrong. Peloton has gotten me through a lot of this.

How have you maintained community during the pandemic?

Naomi Thompson:

My group chats flourished.

Virtual game nights didn't work for me - we were using the same platform I was using for work. Some of my friends have developed a really helpful way of saying what we need in a moment. "I need to vent. I'm not looking for solutions."

Janiece Mackey:

I have so many chats. Also Netflix. We were watching shows together and would pause and reflect on certain episodes, epiphanies, hot messes that happened. Collaborative healing sessions. Created in a digital space for youth after the killing of George Floy

Collaborative healing sessions. Created in a digital space for youth after the killing of George Floyd. Not for consumption; anyone in the space, including adults, had to be there for healing, not observing.

Building community for the purpose of connecting and healing.

Tiera Tanksley:

It sounds like we're engaging in a lot of the same healing practices and communal practices.

Extraverted friends adopt me. These two colleagues with me at Boulder, we FaceTime almost every night. We'll call because something devastating happened and within ten minutes we'll be cracking up.

There's the healing you do in therapy, the healing you do on your own, and the healing you do with your friends. Sharing memes, talking shit.

Re: a paper that grew out of racism: "We're here because of sisterhood."

Khalia Braswell:

Laughing is a strategy we can use to get us centered.

I joined a virtual writing group specifically for Black women and that has been my saving grace.

How do you maintain motivation to push through your work during the pandemic?

Tiera Tanksley:

I'm on leave right now. It's my second year on the tenure track. There was a lot of talk like "You don't need to take a break right now. You just started." In order for me to continue this abolitionist project, because it is a lifelong project, I

In order for me to continue this abolitionist project, because it is a lifelong project, I needed to take a break from the institution.

It's actually very common for people to take breaks in those first six years before tenure. They won't tell you that, but you're well within your rights to do that.

My work is soul work. It is tied to my community. It is tied to my deep-set dreams for emancipation. There's always motivation to do the work. It's about finding time to do the different pieces of the work. Every day is not. writing day.

Sometimes I read Twitter threads and that's my contribution for the day. There are pieces that we don't consider the work that are very important.

You have to think through "What am I motivated to do today?" even if it's taking a nap. That's part of the work, too. We're already talking about rest is resistance.

Naomi Thompson:

The faculty & institution are often going to make you feel like you don't have time for breaks, it's not possible, but it's important to stand firm in what you need.

It's okay to reconsider, make sure you see a path forward. Sometimes it's finish this dissertation and then figure out what's after that. Sometimes it's take a break from this dissertation.

I defended on March 12, 2020. I was anxious about the world and I had revisions. I took a break. I took a couple months.

The feeling is valid and whatever ways you need to manage that are also valid.

Khalia Braswell:

When I came into grad school, it was already a lot of unhealthy hustle culture. I'm going into tech. I don't have to hustle during a pandemic to write all these papers. I don't have the energy to think beyond this coursework and my research.

My energy tanks at certain parts, have some things that are research tasks, even if they're small, where I'm moving this thing forward even if it doesn't feel like a huge chunk of work.

If any of the panelists want to share how therapy have helped them manage anxiety, stress, all the things that have come up during the pandemic.

Janiece Mackey:

I have a life coach. He is always like, "What is going to make Janiece well?"

My life coach walks me through the saboteur voice, because I have assumptions. I'll say, "So and so might think this," and he'll say, "Okay, well even if they think that, why do YOU think that?" Being able to identify, name, & pivot away from that voice.

Also to delegate, because I tend to hold on to things that I shouldn't.

Khalia Braswell:

Mindfulness and yoga have helped me be mindful of what I'm holding onto physically.

Naomi Thompson:

I have been to therapy and I thought that it was helpful. In all kinds of communities, we don't talk about mental health.

Sometimes we get these messages that something has to be terribly wrong to go to therapy, and that might be true, but it also might not be.

Sometimes it takes time to find the right kind of therapy or the right kind of therapist.

Khalia Braswell:

There are resources online for folks who have had trouble finding a therapist. Finding a good therapist is hard.

Tiera Tanksley:

If you feel at the end of the day you didn't do enough writing, rethink what writing looks like.

Khalia Braswell:

How do you all deal with pushback when taking breaks and doing things to help with burnout?

I tell people I can't pour from an empty cup. Either way the work isn't gonna get done, so I might as well pour into myself.

Tiera Tanksley:

I go to therapy. I'm the caretaker of my family. I financially support multiple people, I caretake for my father who has a mental disability, I'm constantly the Strong Black Woman and I feel very uncomfortable unloading onto other folks who I caretake for s

I'm constantly the Strong Black Woman and I feel very uncomfortable unloading onto other folks who I caretake for because then I end up caretaking again. It's good to have somebody who it's low risk for me to give everything to.

I check my therapist sometimes because sometimes she'll say stuff and I'll say "What you're saying is wild and here's how you need to be caretaking for me."

When I say I need a break, I'm telling you. I'm not asking for a break. "You can tell me all the reasons it's not poppin', and I'm gonna say that sounds like a personal problem. Respectfully, I'm gonna tell you, I'm gonna take this motherfuckin' break."

It's not a common practice for them to just fire you because you want to take a break.

Khalia Braswell:

If I don't break, I'm going to break.

Any last thoughts or pieces of advice you have for people who are trying to recover from and/or manage their pandemic burnout?

Janiece Mackey:

Where is pushback coming from? Make sure it's not yourself. Find spaces and sources that replenish you. For me it was the water. I play my cello. Just to replenish my soul.

Tiera Tanksley:

Say no a lot.

Not "No, because x, y, and z" but "No. Because I said so." We hear it all the time, but then it's really hard to do.

I haven't had repercussions for saying no beyond the awkwardness of saying no.

If you want to say yes but you don't have the capacity, find another way or delegate to someone who does. Be unapologetic. You know your limitations.

Khalia Braswell:

Self-care has been commercialized, but I really Dr. Tanksley's approach around finding little moments of joy. I want to echo that. My last apartment had a beautiful tub and I started taking baths, I was like, "This is a mood."

We have to rethink these norms that we've put around things around taking care of ourselves and finding joy.

Don't overthink self-care.

Tiera Tanksley:

Not feeling pressured to answer a text or a message if you're up and on your phone.

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Kimberly Hirsh @KimberlyHirsh
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We must acknowledge that much of what we know of this country today, including its culture, economic growth, and development throughout history and across time, has been made possible by the labor of enslaved Africans and their ascendants who suffered the horror of the transatlantic trafficking of their people, chattel slavery, and Jim Crow. We are indebted to their labor and their sacrifice, and we must acknowledge the tremors of that violence throughout the generations and the resulting impact that can still be felt and witnessed today. I thank Dr. Terah ‘TJ’ Stewart for the text of this labor acknowledgement.