BECOME A MEMBER! Sign up for TIE services now and start your international school career


Resilience Through Change: Nurturing Wellbeing in the Complex Pursuit of DEIJ Impact

By Louise Franklin
Resilience Through Change: Nurturing Wellbeing in the Complex Pursuit of DEIJ Impact

I am a pediatric therapist by trade, an advocate for wellbeing by choice, and an ally by nature. In my work over the years as a therapist with children of all ages, abilities, and socio-economic statuses, I am no stranger to dysregulated nervous systems, small children with big feelings, and emotional rollercoasters on an almost-daily basis, often escalating at lightning speed and with little to no warning. Crises are no stranger to me, and I have become pretty good at remaining calm in challenging situations. In my wellbeing role and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) work, I am confronted with sensitive topics, challenging biases, and opportunities for shifting culture in a positive way. In all of these positions, I recognize that my personal wellbeing and maintaining emotional control are key to being the best representative and member of our community that I can be each day.

That being said, although I am good at regulating my emotions, it does not mean that they go away. My knowledge of polyvagal theory does not excuse me from doing the self-work. It can be hard not to take things personally, and I often get home and need processing time before I can settle into my evening. I have learned, mostly the hard way, what is most impactful in staying centered and well through the less-comfortable work, and have tried to summarize my advice through the following tips: 

Rational Detachment

Being able to rationally detach is crucial for setting effective boundaries, responding to challenging or aggressive behavior without losing emotional control, and not taking things personally (even during provoking comments that may attack appearance, race, gender, or competence). Putting my ego aside, viewing others’ behavior as a communication, and focusing on what could be the underlying need beyond hurtful words or actions, hugely helps protect my mental health and ability to do my job. It is almost never “about me.” Confrontation is almost always rooted in either trauma, privilege, or both. 

Knowing My Triggers and Glimmers

Understanding my personal triggers (such as witnessing injustice or inequity) really helps me maintain regulation and professionalism during difficult conversations, particularly with those who are resistant to change. When I recognize triggering feelings, I have internal scripts, use breathing techniques, and look for glimmers to help me stay focused on the task at hand and work towards the ultimate goal of creating positive change in a sustainable way. I am also explicitly aware that each person is on their own journey, but most of us share the desire to belong, value inclusivity, and welcome the strength and richness that diversity brings.

Channeling My Energy and Emotions

Wellbeing and DEIJ work can be both triggering and restorative. It can be draining and energy-giving. It can be uncomfortable and rewarding. What is true for all is that it is emotional work, often messy, and can feel personal. Things that exist in parallel in some moments can, and should, become intertwined in others. I recognize my privilege and also my traumas. I am white and able-bodied but also have an invisible disability. My privilege means I can choose how to channel my energy, but I always aim to peacefully untangle mentalities that have caused or continue to cause harm. If I become dysregulated, autonomic mapping helps me to quickly pinpoint where I’m at and shift gears so my autonomic nervous system is in the most appropriate state to get the work done. Using the GROW model as a framework for navigating conversations helps me to remain objective. Hastily acting on my emotions increases the risk of relational damage and regression. Sitting with and understanding my feelings first, and then acting on them with intent increases the chance of impactful change. Calmness in a crisis is key.

Practicing Self-Care Flexibly

I am a runner (but haven’t run for months), a yoga teacher (but teach more than I practice), and know that meditation is grounding (but struggle to stay focused). Painting, baking, and gardening are my creative outlets, but happen so sporadically that I have unfinished paintings aplenty and random vegetables sprouting in my garden. All of these things make me feel good but come and go in waves. Rather than letting my self-care practices dictate my life and cause additional stress if I “fall off the wagon,” I choose to do whatever I fancy at that moment with no pressure to commit. It took me years to realize that having good sleep hygiene is vital for my wellbeing, and just days to see the benefits of turning off email notifications on my phone (this is a game changer). Additionally, I am intentional with which time/day I choose to keep up with world events, and am kinder to my body when exercising depending on which phase of my menstrual cycle I am in. Healthy habits can die, resurface, or be replaced. It is okay for it to take a few attempts before a routine nestles in (or doesn’t). I enjoy and benefit from self-care in all its forms, but fighting myself to maintain a strict regime is not a hill that I am willing to die on.

Asking For Help

It can be very humbling to admit that I have reached my limit of knowledge on a DEIJ or wellbeing topic, made an error of judgement, or had an unconscious bias cause damage. Having friends, colleagues, and critical thinking partners from all walks of life affords me continued self-growth and awareness of updated best practices. I appreciate receiving praise and encouragement from these people but appreciate constructive criticism and raw honesty even more. I most value criticism from those whom I would also seek advice and hold myself accountable to learn from my mistakes. I have a strong moral compass but don’t always get it right.

Staying True To Myself

I am committed to the work and navigate the discomfort with my wellbeing at the forefront so that I have the capacity to keep going. Choosing my own comfort over difficult conversations would be the epitome of privilege and allow for an easy walk away from allyship. Disrupting the foundations of well-rooted oppression, being more than an ally, and having tough conversations with those who have what you deem problematic beliefs is no easy feat and can be very bumpy along the way. It can be easier to stay silent than put in the work, harder to stay well if I tirelessly do, but what could be the most heartbreaking pill to swallow as the dust settles if I don’t, is the knowledge that I could have done better. And that I should have done both.

Further Reading 

Guidance for Navigating the DEIJ Journey | The International Educator (TIE Online) by Doline Ndorimana

Rational Detachment by Crisis Prevention Institute

How to Map Your Own Nervous System: The Polyvagal Theory - The Movement Paradigm by Arianne Missimer

The GROW model Coaching Framework | Culture at Work by Sir John Whitmore

Effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance by XAKJ de Jonge

The Truth About Emotional Regulation by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Allyship Is Not Enough — We Need Accomplices by Dr. Akilah Cadet

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown


Louise Franklin (she/her) is a whole school Occupational Therapist and Wellbeing Leadership Partner at the International School of Brussels.


Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:


There are currently no comments posted. Please post one via the form above.