Wellbeing in Student Affairs

Make ourselves miserable or happy

The Huffington Post, Renee Piquette Dowdy, and Ann Marie Klotz have all shared thoughts this week on wellbeing in Student Affairs. Renee challenges us to own our role in the “crazy” cycle as professionals, manage our emotions, and buck the norms of “overwhelmed” and “busy” to take care of ourselves. Ann Marie challenges us to start talking more openly about wellness and shares strategies for how to create balance. I’m adding to this dialogue with some additional thoughts and strategies.

In the readings I’m doing this year, I am finding more and more that we (humans) are wired to perform and please others, this includes our supervisors. If you are a supervisor who works 24/7, does not role model balance, and sends emails at all hours of the day and night – it is not a stretch to assume that your staff may follow suit. Having a supervisor that has a sense of balance and wellbeing and role models this balance encourages staff and students to do the same. Using an expression from Teri bump, “You’ve got to see it to be it.” Seeing someone higher up balance their work and life, means it can be done.

That being said, it is not solely on the supervisor – it never is. As professionals we each need to own our role in figuring out what balance and wellbeing looks and feels like to us. Then we need to set boundaries in order to meet and maintain this balance. Balance looks different to everyone. Figure out what it looks like to you. I feel the best when I set and accomplish a reasonable to-do list for the day, have time for a run, and can cook a healthy dinner with my partner. It is ok to not take every phone call from a friend or family member, answer every email as it comes in, and not life a reactionary lifestyle.

Stop buying into what my friend Demi refers to as the “so busy, so important” philosophy of martyrdom  in student affairs. When did busyness become the new popularity contest? My worth, your worth, is not determined by how many reports I write, emails I answer, or meetings I have in a day, week, or year. My worth as a person and employee is not measured by how many hours I put in after hours. In fact, some of the best conversations I have had with my supervisor include books I’ve read or she has recommended to me, weekend plans, reaching new running goals, and house renovation projects. Some of the more difficult but open and honest conversations have revolved around how do we prioritize to-do list items, being pulled in multiple directions, navigating politics, and managing up. This leads me to two more strategies.Stop the Glorification of Busy

Be open and honest about where you are at. No one can read your mind. You have to know when your “bucket” is running low as well as how to refill it.

Connect with others & do not try to go it alone. You are not the first or only person to struggle with finding balance and wellbeing. Talk to people about their strategies for finding balance. Brene Brown states, “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone’. Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone.” We go against our culture, a culture echoed in Student Affairs, when we ask for help, say no to a meeting or committee, or leave work at 5. It take courage and bravery, but each of us is responsible for our own sense of balance and wellbeing.

My strategies include waking up early to find time for myself, asking my partner and puppy to be my running buddies, reading before bed (rather than watching TV), and using lunch time to build connections and relationships across campus – outside of my office.

Changing the focus on building the new

What are your thoughts on wellbeing in Student Affairs? How do you resist a culture of martyrdom? What strategies do you employ for finding and maintaining balance? 


2 thoughts on “Wellbeing in Student Affairs

  1. Anne, thank you for reading & commenting. I agree, Student Affairs is not alone in the challenge to find balance. Brene Brown talks about a “culture a scarcity” where their is never “enough” time, money, energy, etc. It is up to us to challenge that pervasive mindset.


  2. Reblogged this on AnneRStark and commented:
    This is a fantastic post that both summarizes the conversation of the day and further challenges us to take care of ourselves! While the content is specific to higher education and student affairs, my guess is there are many fields that could benefit from these reflections and calls to action to live healthier lives!


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