Don't Forget to Breathe

Sometimes I let my mind wander and “secrets of the universe” type questions pop in my mind. Like why do we have an appendix if we don’t really need one? What does my brain look like? Why does the smell of garlic linger around on my hands after I have washed them 5 times? Today, I had one of these fun questions pop in my mind after several back-to-back meetings with students about student organization issues. Frustrated, I thought “Is this how counselors feel at the end of their work day?”

I know what you’re thinking…Tabatha is experiencing burnout. Maybe she’s in the wrong profession. No! I’m not tired of being a Student Affairs professional. I find great satisfaction in being able to guide students to achieve their personal fulfillment. However, sometimes having to work through concerns and issues all day long, day after day, can weigh on the helper a bit down. The primary observation I have made, is that as an advisor to a student organization, I feel more like a counselor than an advisor at times. There are days when the students come to my office to vent, other times they cry. One time I had students break out into a shouting match in my office. Beyond the usual advisor duties I have to mediate during conflicts among students, I have to referee during meetings, I have to supervise at events, and sometimes I even have to be the manager and provide deadlines. And the worst part? I can repeat the same message over and over again, in different ways, to some students, with the hopes that one day they will listen to me. Student: (black stare). Me: Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? Student: (same confused look).

I am by no means a counselor, but as an advisor (a very involved one) I want my students to have an open and honest relationship with me. Usually, when working with new students on my Executive Boards, I will be readily available to answer questions and be present at the majority of meetings. I will gradually let go and let them tackle things on their own. There are days when the students don’t take ownership of their mistakes which makes me frustrated. I hear other staff members refer to their students as “kids” but I refer to them and treat them as adults. Granted they are young adults, and aren’t as experienced in leadership as others…but we will work with what we have and make the best out of it. I’m very flexible in that sense. But I have to admit that after some of the students give me an attitude or their tempers flare up, I feel like this.

Maybe I need to learn to put my foot down more, or maybe I just need to stop giving students my cell phone number, or put a time limit of what’s the latest they can call me at night. As a new professional and as a new advisor, I have learned that we need to step back every once in a while, trust the students to handle their own situations, and take a deep breath. On top of that, we need to reconnect with ourselves and our purpose for this profession. We can get carried away with giving our positive energy out to others, and sometimes we don’t have enough for ourselves (which we need mostly to keep sane).

And as you read this post on this lovely Friday, please know I’m sending you some positive energy to recharge from your long work week (some of you are still working through midterms). Take the day off when things slow down. I’m taking the day off on Monday and I never do that! I also want you to take 10 to 15 minutes during your lunch break. Shut off your phone, close the door to your office, turn down the lights, and take a deep breath. Enjoy the silence for a moment. If you do not have the luxury of silence in your office, try a meditation video like this: Picture yourself on the beach in this video. The week is almost over, my friends. Keep breathing! 

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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