I have been struck by the resilience in the students, staff and faculty during the past three challenging semesters. Yet, pandemic burnout leaves many of us hollow as we approach the most demanding period of the academic calendar. The end of the academic year is not only when final exams take place but it is when many year long commitments end, life transitions take place, and uncertainty and accomplishment go hand-in-hand. Many universities offer self-care advice on websites to help support members of campus at all levels during this time. Of all the lessons we can impart to our students, how to practice self-care during times of stress is perhaps one of the most important.
Encouraging self-care in a way that does not add to the unreasonable to do list (self-care as value-added not an untimely stressor) is a reasonable goal for the month ahead. And linking the benefits of self-care to the goals of the month ahead is one form of encouragement. When we take care of our bodies, minds, souls, and relationships, we perform better, enjoy the journey more deeply, and celebrate with more energy.
During this time of pandemic burnout and societal tensions, self-care may also include acknowledging that the sprint turned into a marathon. And we have done our best. Noting what you are proud of this past year is centering. Realizing what you did accomplish in the face of challenge is important when life is hard, when school and our jobs are hard, and when living in a pandemic is hard. Be bouyed by your success.
And reasonable in your expectations. Divide your to do list into activities that are essential, value-based, and expendable. View the essentials list with a skeptic eye – negotiate deadlines, accept something less than excellence, and verify others’ expectations to pare this list down to the barebones. This trimmed-down version stays on the list. What to-do list items bring you joy and align with your values? Do you value social connection? Be sure you make time to connect with others each day, even briefly. Be sure you to do list includes one thing that aligns with your values to see you through. And the rest, set it aside for another day. You have my permission. All you need is yours.
Be sure to check out other tools for self-care (including our self-care through self-massage videos) to find the right mix for you. Or, if you are a UNC student, check out upcoming wellness workshops we offer through Kenan-Flagler or the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.