Break My Stride

People say that the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem. So here it goes…I am a workaholic. The issue is that I already knew this about myself! I learned this early in graduate school; and today as a full-time professional, I continue to put extra stress on myself in the day-to-day aspects of my job. However, I have always demonstrated optimism when it comes to working. The lyrics from 80s pop song Break My Stride describes it best: “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, nobody’s gonna slow me down, oh no, I’ve got to keep on moving”.

When I became a professional, I was told to find hobbies. I took this advice and decided to become an advisor to my sorority chapter in the area. Now my work involves students, and my hobby involves students. Is it me, or is this a little too much “student time”?

The past few weeks have been full of many evening events since I work in programming, conflict mediation between students, struggling with rejection from students I advise, multiple committee meetings, family issues, and a slight decline in my health. Unfortunately, my students and colleagues have seen the stress in my body. Some have offered uplifting words to “keep my chin up”, but it is so hard to do when you have only slept for 4 to 5 hours each night. Sadly, I do not enjoy coffee and wish I could jump on the “Caffeine Express” to boost my energy.

During the day, I deal with multiple interruptions at any given time. I answer questions when visitors drop by. I deal with burnt out light bulbs in our lobby area. I brainstorm ideas with the secretary about the future of our department and where it is heading. I sometimes get upset with things my boss will say or not say. But it doesn’t stop there. At night, when I lay down to sleep, I often review things about my work day in my mind. Sometimes I drift in and out of sleep because one thought becomes another thought, and so on. I even dream about work sometimes! Who does that?! Then I get up and do it all over again. It feels like I never leave the office.

Student Affairs is what I do for a living – it is not just a job to me. This is my livelihood. I enjoy doing this work. However, the lines between my personal and work time are blurred because I have taken my job too seriously. I have cried so much in the past week – borderline panic attack. I can put on a good face at work, but the moment I am at home, I break down. Thankfully, my best friend works in the department next to mine. Not to mention, I have a very supportive significant other, who I have not seen much of in the past 2 weeks. 

Maybe this is really a question about shifting my priorities around. I have always put my job and my students first that I have forgotten about myself and my needs. I have read many times about the attrition rates in the field of Student Affairs, and now I’m starting to understand why. Sometimes we invest ourselves completely into our roles and positions, resulting in physical, emotional, and mental burn out. Taking “me” time every now and then is a good solution, but I understand it’s easier said than done – especially when you have to change your weekend plans to accommodate students’ schedules for meetings, retreats, and other activities.

For workaholics like me, going cold turkey isn’t going to work. To try to find a work and life balance this weekend, I am shutting off my phone. My boyfriend and I are going out of town for our one-year anniversary, which will include going to the movies to watch Star Wars: Episode I in 3D (Yes, we are that kind of nerdy couple). It’s a small step to shut off the phone and a big step to go out of town, but this is a much needed “break in my stride” from my everyday routine. My parents always told me “Leave work, at work…it will be there tomorrow when you get back”. As much as I don’t want to admit it –they’re right!

How do you de-stress or unwind from work?

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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