A New Perspective on “Work-Life Balance”

by Brooke Wilson

It’s important to acknowledge and remember that our lives are more like spaghetti than waffles. As much as we might like to section ourselves off from other parts of our day or week, it often gets blended together and emotions get blurred. It’s not so easy for us to separate what happens in the morning before we arrive in the office from our work that day. It is even more challenging to distance ourselves from our work or what happened at work after our 8, 9, 10, or more hours of being there. We must find a method or strategy to increase our agility and shift more easily between these spaces.

For me, I try really hard to find a separation between work and life. If I did not hit snooze too many times, I’m able to spend some time praying and mentally preparing for the day over a good cup of coffee before leaving the house. Other days, I’m doing everything I can to stay patient in traffic and center myself over a good song on the radio or pep-talk. Essentially, I try to remind myself why the work matters while also understanding that my identity goes well beyond my Program Coordinator title. If I can avoid taking work home, I will, but if I absolutely need to get something done after I leave, I will still give myself a break and do something for me. My strategies include: yoga, dinners with friends, cooking, talking to my mom on the phone, walking my dog in the park, and Netflix (but not too much because I am known to fall asleep on the couch). I try to do these things without work in mind. If I need to vent, I do it quickly and then move on. There is no use in harping on what happened and bringing that negative energy into my home or relationships. Let it go! If you need to debrief a difficult day or prepare for a challenging conversation, make the space for it, but don’t let it consume your life beyond the ivory tower. If you enjoy hanging out with colleagues, great! I encourage you to get to know them beyond the office and find other meaningful things to talk about at happy hour. Let there be as much of a separation as naturally possible and give yourself the grace to take that time and actually enjoy it! Don’t put guilt and shame on yourself for thinking about you or thinking about anything other than work. This is the self-care we all know is critical, but rarely do.

Other times, you may not be able to snap out of a mood or put a smile on your face and that is okay too. Be authentic, but also be aware that your energy is contagious- whether that be high, low, or somewhere in-between. Allow yourself to be real, but remember to give your colleagues and students that same freedom. Our profession is incredibly giving and can be emotionally taxing; for the most part, that’s really great because it means we care. You control how much of yourself (your real self) that you bring to a space and how vulnerable you decide to be that day. Above all else, just be human. That is the beauty of student affairs- it doesn’t call you to be perfect- it just calls you to care.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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