For the past five years of my life, I have worked in residence life. I’ve loved the ability to form close relationships with my residents and staff members, and I have truly enjoyed being a resource for my residents, sometimes at odd hours of the night. I cannot tell you how many times I was the person who happened to be there for a resident at 3am when no one else was. It’s a rewarding feeling. But with working in residence life comes the dreaded phrase “work life balance.” What on earth does that look like when you live, in my case literally, next door to your office? For me, this manifests itself in me taking my computer home with me, because after all, I can just carry it back next door when I’m done. It means I hear the phone ringing in my office when I’m sitting on my couch at night and contemplating if I should go answer it or not. It means I hear students sitting in the lobby of my building loudly talking about their friend who was so intoxicated the night before that they couldn’t remember anything today, and I start taking notes about what’s going on while I’m in the middle of my 3-hour Chopped marathon. It’s so hard for me to find that balance sometimes.
Take for example, August. Everyone in student affairs feels the August (or whenever your school’s term is getting ready to begin) grind in some way. For me, this means I’m working all day with my RA staff, then coming home and instead of going home, going straight to my office to begin prep work for the next day, then leaving my office when I cannot keep my eyes open. I go to bed around midnight and then wake up the next morning to do it all over again. While this is, of course, an extreme example, it definitely speaks to the need for balance in my life.
In a world where it seems that everyone is in a competition to see who can be the busiest at work and who can get the most done, we need to find balance so that we’re practicing what we preach. We tell our students all the time to get time away from classes and get away from campus to take time for themselves. I’ve had that conversation with many of my students when they’ve had the inevitable breakdown in my office and tell me that they’re too stressed. I tell them to get away from campus for the weekend and focus on themselves. If we’re telling our students this, why don’t we practice it more ourselves?
So it’s time to take time for ourselves. It’s okay to leave the office, even if it’s during a busy time. Obviously don’t let your work suffer for the time you are out, but sometimes even a 10 minute break can do wonders. Learn to recognize the signs in yourself that you’re burning out. Listen to your mind and body. When they need a break, take it. If you work in an office where it’s “expected” that you take work home with you, work on figuring out how to approach your supervisor and have an open and honest conversation with them about the need for balance. If that’s not possible (and for some offices it might not be) then find a way to take that time for yourself. Maybe it’s rewarding yourself with a TV show for getting a task done. Remember, the most important thing to do is that you take time for yourself somehow and in some way.
You are your own greatest ally. Find your balance and make it work for you. And above all, be kind to yourself.