For as long as I’ve been in a higher education setting, the term self-care has been constantly thrown around. I’ve attended more presentations on the concept than I can count – I’ve even delivered presentations on the topic. I consider myself an advocate for self-care, especially in the field of higher education where both professionals and students are constantly going at full throttle.
While all of this still rings true, I’ve recently learned of a new perspective. During a classroom discussion on departmental and campus leadership, my classmate share this: the concept of self-care is rubbish. I was a little taken aback (or “shook” as the youngin’s say). If we’re supposed to be a field of professionals that preaches the importance of self-care – how could my classmate possible feel this way? I listened to his rationale and it has influenced my view on the topic.
We are told to “take 30 minutes for yourself each day to unwind” or that we need to “find what helps you recharge your batteries.” But what happens when those 30 minutes end? Are your batteries ever really recharged in the field of student affairs? When our dedicated self-care time is up, student affairs graduate students and professionals go back to checking our email inboxes, realize that we’re late for our next meeting, or have to attend to other pressing matters. My classmate was able to highlight a larger problem – what’s the point of preaching self-care to our students if we are never truly recharged? And, if we do find ourselves with a full charge, our batteries are draining out more quickly than it took to get them charged in the first place.
My Self-care in Practice
I encourage you to critically reflect on where you exert most of your time and energy and, how much of that is actually self-care. My practice isn’t as “fluffy” and “cookie cutter” as I thought it would be. My schedule consists of about 45 minutes of self-care followed by a 12 hour day full of work, meetings and class. The 45 minutes at the beginning of my day are extremely helpful but, I still find myself completely drained by the time I have to attend my night classes.
Self-care is extremely important, especially for folks who may be wearing more hats than should be allowed within a given role. It’s important when engaging in advocacy work. Self-care gives us the ability to fully invest ourselves in our students. On the flip side, advocacy work never ends. For those with traditionally marginalized identities, the oppression never ends. When awe are constantly in a state of fighting to have our voices heard, do we ever get a chance to care for ourselves? I can sit in my room and listen to Frank Ocean for an hour but step outside my apartment building and be confronted with continuous microaggressions and stress.
So, with all this being said, I pose the question: is self-care just another fluffy term that we like to throw around in our field or is there purpose to it? If it isn’t fluffy, then are we actually taking care of ourselves? If it is just another fluffy term, how do we change the narrative surrounding it? Are we ever actually recharged as student affairs professionals?
Truthfully, I am not sure where my thoughts lie on this topic. What I do know, however, is that I find myself being more self-aware of my time and where I exert my energy to. I hope this helps you begin to critically assess what self-care actually looks like in your offices and departments, across your respective institutions.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following three awesome people: Michelle, Sara, and Thalia. Join us as they blog about a year in their journey as a new SA Pro or SA grad. We are proud to help them share their stories.