My word for 2019 is “calm.” This was an exercise I did with some girlfriends, all of whom are working moms. One friend chose “ownership,” while another chose “clarity.” I knew I would need some more “calm” in my life amidst the chaos of being a parent, a professor, a friend, a PTO volunteer, a concert-goer, a body combat queen, and of course, your NSGC President. Coming to the end of summer vacation, beginning new school years, and the fall conference season on the horizon only makes the “calm” seem more out of reach at times. I’m sure many, if not all of you, can relate. We are so bombarded every, single day with way too many emails, texts, headlines and meetings, and it can be very difficult, if not impossible at times, to sort through it all to land on our priorities, find our purpose, and really spend time on what matters – this is “clarity.” I’m not sure I’m doing too well at “calm,” but it’s something I’m going to keep working on for self-improvement. I’m also actively working on doing my best to focus on what’s in front of me at any given moment – being present – and working to improve my mindfulness. It’s so exciting to see genetic counselor researchers focused on this type of issue with studies such as the Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship (JEMF) funded “Me-GC,” a randomized controlled trial of meditation for genetic counselors. I know the results of this work, and others, will continue to carry our profession onward and upward.
Something else I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is “self-care.” One of my friends recently told me that I am the best at “self-care” out of anyone she knows. This was after I told her how I recently treated myself to a day out of the office to celebrate my birthday, including three glorious hours at the spa, lunch with family, shoe shopping, and of course, champagne! We should all take this type of time off work, away from the office, to “Treat.Yo.Self” (thank you, Parks and Recreation, for my favorite saying of all time)! I recently read an article on ideas.ted.com focused on allowing employees to optimize their leisure time and how this is “a necessary weapon” to help avoid emotional burnout and employee exhaustion.
I think we all can benefit from more self-care, more time away from our computers and other devices, and more time disconnected from the office. Last summer, I took an amazing, once in a lifetime trip to Australia with my husband. Part of the trip was a working trip to speak at the Australasian Society of Genetic Counsellors and Human Genetics Society of Australia meetings, but most of the trip was a blissful, luxurious vacation spent away from work, and yes, from my children. (Oh, how I do love them!) When I returned, I was met with many pending deadlines and work demands. And, I was also met with consternation from a colleague regarding my long absence from work and my disconnectedness from email. I have to say, I was proud of myself as I advocated for my time away, and the healthiness and improved productivity these times away from the office bring to the workplace in the long run. This colleague didn’t agree, but I stood firm. And, I tell all my team members, many of whom are genetic counselors, when they are away on vacation, I do NOT want them thinking about work, opening work emails or joining conference calls. We are passionate about our work, but at the end of the day, our passion will dwindle if we’re not given the permission – from ourselves, and others – to refuel.
To this end, I’d like to highlight the upcoming NSGC September Member Webinar, “Elevate Yourself and Others: Insights and Best Practices of Mentor Relationships.” Please join in order to hear more guidance on how to elevate, and advocate, for yourself and for your team! Be brave, and fight for what’s right for yourself, and others!
Thanks for allowing me to get a bit more personal during this issue of the Advocate. It’s been my “calm” before the fall and winter storms ahead to sit down and take the time to share these thoughts of mine with you all. I cannot wait for the bolt of lightning the NSGC Annual Conference will bring to energize us all in a few short months!
Amy Curry Sturm
2019 NSGC President
This article was published in the August 2019 Advocate Newsletter.