“Self-indulgent slump”. That is what I would always call it when I just couldn’t do it anymore. I would skip practice or exercise for weeks. I would ignore the assignments piling up. I would turn down invites from friends. The length would vary from one to six weeks. Generally they were shorter when I was younger as an athletic event or school project caused me to “snap out of it”. It wasn’t depression but I would just tell my friends it was when I backed out of social commitments because it was easier to explain. I would tell my gym family not to worry, they just wouldn’t see me for three weeks. I couldn’t and didn’t want to get out of it but I still felt guilty. Then I saw a TikTok or Instagram Reel that told me I was just practicing self-care and it was called Goblin Mode.
What is it?
“Goblin Mode” is the first publicly chosen word of the year (James, 2022). Oxford University Press describes it as “unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations” (Oxford University Press, 2022). It occurs when our sympathetic nervous system maxes out from the stress of just not being able to do it all (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Then our parasympathetic nervous system recognizes the disruption from the perpetual, moderate level of anxiety from the everyday challenges and swims in restoration and rejuvenation. Goblin mode is when we transition from treading water to floating. In other words, our body and brain pin us down and force our head back on the pillow. Lately, my sympathetic nervous system clocks out when I finally sit down at around 7:00 pm and I just can’t think or get up and do anything except get lost in TikTok for an hour. @ClevelandClinic suggests doing activities, whatever they would be for you, to restore, recharge, rejuvenate and reconnect (The 4 R’s) like sleeping, meditating, rage walking, journaling, grabbing coffee with a friend, etc.
What does it mean for teachers?
Dr. Choi suggests recognizing when you are in Goblin Mode as soon as possible and then giving yourself what you need (Choi, PhD, 2023). I know I am in goblin mode when I let my grading pile up, my passion and drive to empower students to embrace their own health is dimmed. Take a day off or at least go home when your contract day ends. Be proactive and engage in those daily activities that give you a break and make it non-negotiable. I stay off social media to avoid social comparisons, eat lunch in my car while listening to @BosPublicRadio, and aggressively clean.
Why is it important for teaching?
At any given time, a handful or more of the humans in your classroom will be in Goblin Mode. Incorporate 4 R’s activities in the lesson. Create options with students at the beginning of the year and revisit throughout. Your coworkers may be in it too. Lend an ear but release that burden rather than absorbing it.
What’s the point?
Don’t feel guilty for being in goblin mode, just ride it out, you need it! Teaching is harder than ever and there are aspects to this job with which we shouldn’t have to deal. Curate your activities and try them on a rotating basis until you feel like that to-do list is realistically conquerable. Recognize if you need help getting out of Goblin Mode, reach out to a friend, doctor or therapist. Sleep. Restore. Repeat.
Choi, PhD, K. (2023, January 26). What is ‘Goblin mode’ – Oxford’s word of 2022. Massachusetts General Hospital. Retrieved April 15, 2023, from https://www.massgeneral.org/psychiatry/news/goblin-mode
Cleveland Clinic. (2022, December 29). What Is ‘Goblin Mode’ and Is It Healthy? – Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. Retrieved April 15, 2023, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/goblin-mode-and-your-health/
James, I. (2022, December 5). Oxford word of the year 2022 revealed as ‘goblin mode’. BBC. Retrieved April 15, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-63857329
NHS. (2019, December 10). Symptoms – Clinical depression. NHS. Retrieved April 15, 2023, from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/
Oxford University Press. (2022). Oxford Word of the Year 2022 | Oxford Languages. Oxford Languages. Retrieved April 15, 2023, from https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2022/
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What Divides Us, Becomes Us by Michelle Rawcliffe
Three Tips for Self-Care as an Educator by Pran Patel
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