As a student affairs professional and PhD student, I often felt like I was running on empty. Yet, I loved serving my students more than anything, so nothing was ever too much to ask. In being fully committed to my education (and conquering the world), pumping the breaks on school wasn’t an option. Since I had so much on my plate, coffee became my lifeline. You could often find me gulping down yet another grande Starbucks latte (that had already turned cold) at 2:00pm. I was in desperate need of energy to make it through the day. On many of occasions, that extra shot of espresso was the only thing that got me through evening programs and classes.
Though I tried to unwind at night, I’d remain wired and wide awake until about 3:00am. Often, I was anxious and dreadful because I knew the alarm would be going off at 6:00am. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d try and do something “productive” to at least lessen the load for the day ahead. The next morning I’d get up, after hitting snooze at least five times, and do it all over again.
I’d tell my students they needed to take care of themselves. I’d say things like “slow down,” “take your time,” or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Yet, I wasn’t taking the advice for myself. Fall and spring were busy, busy, busy. I ran from meeting to meeting, developed students, taught classes, wrote reports, made sure programs ran smoothly, all while reading and researching for my studies. Self-care somehow got lost in the equation. I tried relaxing here and there, but even that time was spent obsessing about something that needed to be done.
By the time May hit, I was both sad and excited for summer.
Though I knew I would miss my students who were graduating or heading home for summer break, I was happy to finally get a moment to recover from some of the year’s burnout. Over time, I learned to not take a single moment of summer for granted. In fact, taking advantage of the summer months is how I found balance in my career as a SAPro.
May to August had become the time that I could be fully intentional about rejuvenating and reconnecting. In the morning, when I saw it was nice out, I’d get up and have a cup of tea (not coffee) and watch the sun rise or take a quick stroll. During the fall and spring semesters, I rarely had a chance to do things with other people for fun. So I made it a point to spend quality time with coworkers and close friends doing things we enjoyed.
Throughout the school year, conferences gave me opportunities for professional development. The summer provided me with opportunities for personal development—webinars, brown bag luncheons, YouTube videos, meetings with mentors, journaling, and even reading self-help and leadership books.
I was once the person who hoarded vacation days for the “just in case” moments during the year.
However, I came to appreciate taking off on a random Wednesday in the middle of June to do whatever I wanted to do. A clean space makes way for a clean mind; one of my favorite things to is to detox my office by getting rid of clutter. Nothing welcomed a new academic year like a clean desk, sorted file cabinets, fresh decor, and completely read emails.
Moral of the story?
Stop and reflect.
Take some time to look at all that you’ve accomplished throughout the year, and pat yourself on the back.
Plan to make the most out of how you spend your summer so that it’s enjoyable and memorable. Make a list of things (unrelated to work) that you didn’t get around to doing all year. Look at your calendar, pick a date, and do it.
Give yourself permission to truly take a breath and a break.
you deserve it. (And of course, come October, you’ll probably be wishing it were summer again.)
Be good to yourselves, friends. Your mind, body, soul (supervisor, colleagues, professors, and students) will thank you later.
This post is part of our #BrighterSummerSA series for June. While we don’t stop in the summer, a lot of professional have a chance to slow down for a minute. How can you utilize that slower pace to make for brighter tomorrow? Using that precious time for a greater good can seem to make your whole life smoother. For more info, please see Doug’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series too!