Sandbags were the reoccurring items I saw as I flipped through news channels this past Tuesday evening. Hurricane Laura was headed straight towards my hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and in anticipation of devastating winds and flooding, gulf coast residents were stocking up on them.

“It’s not a perfect solution,” said one man being interviewed, “but the more bags I can pile up against our house before this hurricane hits, the better my wife and I will feel.” I got to thinking – though the sandbags were being used to keep this man and his family physically safe, the boundary itself gave him peace of mind, positively impacting his emotional state as well. 

We all need boundaries. They help us feel safe, and when we are aware of them, our anxiety decreases. So just as residents used sandbags during Hurricane Laura, I believe educators need to lay out their own type of boundaries in the face of COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, teachers had the end of the school day to mark the boundary between work and home. However, with schedules now turned upside down and virtual teaching a norm, lines have been blurred and teachers are “on” 24-7. This is the perfect storm – the result of which has the potential to be as chaotic as any hurricane. Now, more than ever, educators need boundaries. Without them burnout is certain to occur.

Some specific suggestions? Stay connected with family and friends. Make a list of limitations. Map out a schedule. Carve out time each day where the total focus is a home activity. Do something physical. Unplug. Take care. Breathe. Let go of the guilt.

With all of the external chaos brought on by our health crisis, we need the internal calm afforded by having clear personal and professional boundaries.  Stock up on your emotional sandbags and establish them now.  I’m confident they will act as a grounding force, helping you move towards the end of the 2020 year in a relatively positive way.