Skills We Need Now: Self-Awareness and Self-Management

As 2020 heads into its final months, most folks would probably agree that it has been a pretty intense year, to say the least:

  • Global pandemic
  • Economic crisis
  • Record-breaking wildfires, hurricanes and other climate phenomena
  • Unprecedented worldwide civil rights and anti-racism movement
  • Massive shifts and re-imaginings in the realms of work and education
  • An election that, as of this writing, remains unresolved

What can educational communities do?

It’s certainly not every year that presents as much uncertainty and history in 11 months quite like this one. As such, we all have been called to navigate collective trauma and anxiety on a scale new to everyone. The social and emotional competencies of self-awareness and self-management are skills we need now, as the Collective for Social and Emotional Learning [CASEL] offers:

SELF-AWARENESS, which is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior; and accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well- grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.” As we process the current pandemic and racial injustices, self-awareness is critical to identifying and processing our complex emotions when things are uncertain and socially turbulent, reflecting on our strengths; understanding our cultural, racial, and social identities; and examining our implicit biases.
SELF-MANAGEMENT, which is the ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations—effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself; and the ability to set and work toward goals.Self-management is critical now as we cope with grief and loss, develop our resiliency, and express our agency through resisting injustices and practicing anti-racism.

CASEL also points out in their Roadmap to Reopening Schools that these skills “take on deeper significance as we navigate a very different type of [life].” Prioritized into four critical practice areas, this Roadmap guides districts in “…foster[ing] the competencies and learning environments that students and adults need to reunite, renew, and thrive:”

Knowing ourselves, finding balance

In times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, it’s crucial that we give ourselves space and time to acknowledge our own feelings and experiences, seek balance and self-compassion, and reach for connection even while remaining physically distant. Mindfulness can be a key aspect of growing our self-awareness, and offers the practice of pausing and choosing a response, rather a reflexive reaction. In the words of Austrian neurologist Viktor Frankl:

As always, our own Mindfulness Specialist James Butler offers his YouTube channel and website full of mindful practice ideas for kids and adults.

It’s a lot. Really.

These are hard and strange times – hard for everyone individually, and hard for all of us collectively. It is important, and can be validating, to simply name that there are many truly absurd aspects to these days, weeks and months that we are moving through. Finding balance, seeking gratitude, avoiding the effects of toxic positivity, and reaching for each other can all help.

What are you doing for yourself, your family, your educational community, or for society that is helping you “just keep swimming” these days? We want to know, and we love to hear from you. Tag us on social media @austinisdsel, or drop us a comment. Take sweet care out there, SEL fans.

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