One of the biggest ways for me to deal with my anxiety is to make sure that I create a sense of balance for myself. Running and yoga have been big parts of that, but I’ve also learned that sometimes my line of work feeds that anxious energy. So I’m being intentional in living my life in a way that doesn’t perpetuate anxious feelings.
I’m about a month and a half into a new job, and thus far am putting a great deal of effort into creating a line between my work life and my home life. Prior to this point, I let the two worlds blur, bringing work home and spending time at work tying up loose ends on personal projects. But in making this transition, I opted to take a natural transition and turn it into an opportunity to make a change in my life.
Here are the rules:
(1) Be accessible to students…for emergencies. My customary response to a work call if I’m not at work: “Are you on fire?” “Is someone near you on fire?” If the answer to neither is no, chances are the issue can wait. The nature of my position here at FSU, with such an empowered group of students, makes this distinction significantly easier. Lori, my associate director, said we intervene in the event of “blood, flood or fire.” I like that. It’s less of a matter of trying to shirk work, and more a matter of preventing myself from jumping in all the time.
(2) To prove I don’t wish to shirk doing work- stay in the office for as long as it takes to get it done, but once you’re home, you’re home. I try as often as I can to complete projects, and divide my day by addressing the most urgent of those pending projects. My anxious nature makes me worry that I’ll forget something if I stop mid-task, so I know I have to finish what I’m working on. Sometimes that means staying in the office until 6 or 7, rather than leaving at 5. But for me, it saves the stress of worrying about forgetting details, and allows me to maintain a separation that I know that I need.
(3) Create physical boundaries. In the month and a half that I’ve lived in the new apartment, I’ve taken my computer to my bed with me one time. Similarly, I’ve opted to not have a TV in my room and turn my phone off when I go to bed. This is less about creating a separation between work and play, and more about making sure that I rest. The less sleep I get, the more anxious I feel. In making my bedroom a true place of rest, I’ve felt far more refreshed in the morning, more recharged and ready to tackle all the aspects of my life with the energy that sound sleep gives me.
(4) I schedule free time. I know, it sounds so type-A and counterintuitive. But it keeps me in check, reminds me that I need to have my own time. The biggest way that I’ve done that is by scheduling races. I have, on average, a race a month for the fall. I know that I’ll feel pressure to work all the time if I don’t have days where I don’t go to work. In scheduling races for myself, it gives me time to be away from work, and also gives me a forced opportunity to do one of the most rejuvenating and reflective activities in my life- RUN. Moreover, it forces me to make time to run before or after work, to make sure I’m prepared to do my best in those situations. For someone for whom running has become a great form of therapy, this has been the best way for me to calm myself down, relax, and escape from my thoughts.
(5) Forgive yourself. Will I slip up on these things? Sure. I probably will. I may need to get something off my mind by sending an email, or work on a presentation or committee project in time for a meeting. The key for me will be to let that be okay, as long as I have an overall level of balance. And I recognize that my balance may look very different from someone else’s idea of balance. But in accepting that these things aren’t going to be perfect, my mind can stop ruminating about wanting to change how I’ve done things, or worrying preemptively about letting the scales tip in one direction or the other.
How do you recharge your batteries, whether in student affairs or any other field? We all need it, do you make time? If not, what do you wish you could do??