In student affairs we talk a lot about self care – with one another and with our students. It’s our mantra. We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Our students will burn out (and sometimes fail out) if they don’t balance the rigor of academics, co-curricular activities, and their social life. Like most everything, self care needs to be taught and practiced. The irony is that save for maybe res life, it’s not something we’re really taught.
And the fact is I’ve never been very good at it. I move full-steam ahead. In college I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, served as an orientation chair (which was a big deal at my tiny college), an executive board member of several other organizations, traveled each spring semester, and had a healthy social life. As a doc student I worked full time and balanced a full course load. When I finished my dissertation I was bored (and broke) so I picked up a part-time job. I’m uncomfortable with free time.
As an adult I’m trying to be more mindful of how I take care of myself. I know that I don’t process my personal stress nearly as well when I’m not going to spin class regularly. I know that I eat poorly when I’m a little stressed or not at all if I’m very stressed so I keep easy to prep food and healthy snacks close by. Travel is also an important part of my “self care plan,” though I know I will feel more anxious if I don’t check my work email throughout.
Most importantly, I’m getting better at asking for help. I tell my close friends when I feel like I shouldn’t be alone and I pick up the phone or make plans with friends. Dogs also help, always.
In the spirit of self care, I’m heading out on vacation in a few days and look forward to sharing some travel posts and photos. This trip was planned nearly a year ago during a snow storm that closed DC for several days. I had visions of traveling around Germany by train for two weeks. But my need for self care kicked in recently and I knew I needed to be some place that was “home” and for a shorter period of time. Although I’m a work in progress, I’m proud of myself for recognizing this and for not being complacent about it.
How many higher ed programs are teaching about self-care? If not, how do we learn about it before its too late and we’ve done damage to ourself and others?