Burnout | What Do You Need?

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Over thirty-plus years working in the early learning profession I’ve come to understand very clearly that many caregivers and parents spend huge parts of their day wrapped up in understanding and meeting the needs of other people–while neglecting their own needs.

Can you tell a toddler’s going to poop in the next 8 minutes from across the room by their body language? Do you determine Kim is going to need an early nap by the way she eats her scrambled eggs at breakfast? Do you get so busy meeting children’s needs that you realize around 4:00 PM that you’ve forgotten to eat and your bladder is about to burst?

Being committed to your work is one thing–starving yourself and risking a urinary track infection is another.

You can wait for someone to come along and be the boss of meeting your needs if you like, but you’ll be waiting a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time. If your needs are going to be met, you need to take some action. You need to make time to be the boss of your own needs.

The first step?

Name them.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen–now make a list of your needs. All of them. The big ones, the little ones, the common ones, and the very personal ones. Need a reminder to make time to pee and grab a nibble around 10:00 AM? Put it on the list. Need to hear your Sweetie say “I love you” more often? Put it on the list. Need more or better sleep? On the list. Need to feel appreciated, valued, trusted, respected? On the list, the list, the list, the list!

The first step to meeting a need is identifying it. Kim can’t go down for that early nap until you determine it’s needed. You can’t change your sleep habits until you admit to yourself that you have a need revolving around sleep.

The list is a starting point. It’s the first square on a game of Shoots and Ladders.  It’s a place from which you can move forward.

Over the years, I’ve used this activity during burnout trainings to help attendees tune in to their own needs. A few years back, a women came up to me during a break and exclaimed, “I’m 46 years old and today is the first day I think anyone has asked me what I need. My whole life has revolved around the needs of others. It’s refreshing and intimidating to think about my needs for once.”

The next step is to start meeting those needs. I’ll be back with more tips for doing that in future posts. For now, taking Five or Ten Minutes For Your Self would be a good start.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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