Sometimes as Student Affairs professionals, we have a tendency to let our self-care and personal lives fall to the wayside. I constantly have to remind myself that I need to take care of myself before I can take care of others, which is easier said than done. As a live-in, introverted Hall Director with diagnosed Anxiety and Depression, my job tends to get the best of me at times. I find that I do not prioritize self-care and tend to push through my tasks/to-do list until I find myself in a panic attack. At this point in my life, I need to remind myself that prioritizing self-care is important. As I work through my challenge with self-care, I thought it would be beneficial to share some of the self-care tips that have helped me throughout the years:
1. Make Time for Exercise
I HATE exercise but I LOVE how I feel after I exercise. I make sure that I have time to walk every single day, even if I just end up doing laps down the main road of the college. If you have free workout classes available on-campus, I highly recommend pulling into them and working with your supervisor if they overlap with your work schedule. Last semester I went to Zumba every Tuesday and Thursday. Zumba is so much fun and it helped me to go into my day with energy and a positive mindset.
Exercise is directly correlated to your mental health, so please make time to take a walk every day, even if it’s just few minutes.
2. Make Time for what you Love
Find a hobby or a passion if you don’t have one. It’s easy to let our jobs become our entire lives in Student Affairs because we are so passionately driven by what we do in our field. I love my therapeutic yoga classes, reading, walking, thrift shopping, and knitting, which is my most recent hobby (also it’s great for anxiety). You need to take time to be yourself. As a live-on professional, it is especially important to get away from work. Although I invite students and coworkers into my apartment at times, it is still my safe space/home here. Make sure that you create that environment where you can leave work at work, whether that space is your apartment or an off-campus space.
3. Turn off your Work Emails when you are Not Working
This one is definitely a challenge for a lot of us. For years, I would have my work email linked to my phone and I would answer those emails at all hours of the night. I learned that this was probably a poor life decision when I answered an email during a weekend when I was at a winery with my family. The situation ended up blowing up and I had to contact my supervisor to get an approved room switch for the student who emailed me. Now during my third year as a HD, I have learned that those emails can wait until the workday. We have an HD on-call 24/7 for a reason and if there is an emergency, they will always call her.
4. Find a Counselor or “Your Person” Outside of Student Affairs
Even if you are not diagnosed with a mental health condition, it is important to appropriately funnel your stress in a healthy way. I always recommend counseling if it is available to you. My institution offers 5 free counseling appointments per year to every employee. I would recommend considering a counselor if you are experiencing any stress. It is also good to have your “person” or support system outside of Student Affairs to vent to sometimes. My boyfriend and I are at a point where we know enough about each other’s jobs that we can listen to each other’s frustrations and offer support. He’s also the best at reminding me to take time for myself and to focus on my self-care. Find that person that will remind you of the importance of taking care of you.
5. Remind yourself of what you are Thankful for Every Day
It’s easy to fall into negativity when you are stressed and have a lot on your plate. I always try to take time to remind myself what I love about my job, what I love about myself, and what I love about my life and the people in it. Admittedly, I have not been doing the best job at this recently, but when you get into the habit, it makes a huge difference in your life. You will find that you are more positive, more relaxed, and have a greater appreciation for life.
Again, always remind yourself that you cannot take care of others until you take care of yourself. Also remember that you are not alone in your struggle. There are a lot of us Student Affairs professionals who are going through similar struggles, facing similar mental health conditions, and working through our challenges. I encourage you to find what works for your self-care and to focus on that every day.