The start of my first fall semester advising students arrived, and like a tornado, left stress in its wake. My hair was a mess of untamed frizz for nearly two weeks! From what I understand about myself, I handle stress best in two ways: running and writing. Both have to happen if I want to release the physical and emotional tension stress creates. I was at my limit before finally asking for help, which is not a healthy practice, but something we all have to overcome.
My supervisor asked the question, "When do you ask for help?" Imagine being in an interview and answering this question. Maybe the best response should be "I ask for help all the time." I think my response would be "When I am stumped; after I can't figure something out on my own first." The difference between these responses is clearer to me now that I have been in the soup. The first answer is proactive and fosters a team environment. The second hints at taking on responsibility to the point of being at risk for mistakes and frustration. The weekly message on a local Chiropractor's sign was right: Misery is optional.
I was frustrated and spinning my wheels by the end of the week because it felt like I was not making headway, not even a dent in my workload. It was as if I was putting together puzzle pieces without seeing a picture of the puzzle to piece together. This had nothing to do with student interaction, only the prep work to be done beforehand. I did not understand how to prioritize this new workload or effectively keep tabs on multiple computer applications and databases. Facing facts, I realized that I was at a loss for what to ask first. Anxious and in tears of frustration, I later called the person I am closest to: my sister.
From a Publix parking lot nearly 11 hours away, I leaned in closer to our conversation. "I am going to tell you what our marathon coaches tell us. Remember your Why," she said. "Why" is the reason you do what you do. The reason I am an academic advisor, for instance. I think a "Why" can also be an anchor. The anchor in a race helps a team finish strong. Anchors stabilize boats when storms arrive. This was starting to make sense. My "Why" has everything to do with promoting student success, and advocating wellness is "Why" I do ANYTHING in life because I want to facilitate greater healing. Lightworking is my thing. So I had my "Why" anchoring me. Great! I next needed to know "How" to move my story forward--like in improv comedy. Yes, and...
The final piece came from a colleague who is brave, funny, and wise beyond her years. We are both newly installed in our staff positions, but she has so much more experience with the relational and informational aspects of advising at our institution. This colleague teaches me something new everyday. My informal theory of working full-time in the same field I go to grad school for part-time was that I could put what I learn at school into practice right away. On some level, I realized the frustrations I had about not yet seeing that come to fruition were likely leftover from not being able to for so long. Briefly sabotaging myself, I was not allowing for change. When I voiced these feelings to my colleague, she offered a few suggestions. One helpful piece of advice was to continue learning as much as I would like in school, but to focus on what I can do at work naturally as a by-product of who I am, my experience, and what I am learning. A smart adjustment, and much healthier way to approach the stress of this work.
Creative reflections on academic advising and learning
Cultivating dual resilience: Teaching shame recovery and image rebuilding through academic advising.
Unless noted otherwise, all content copyright 2017-2020 by Tanya Wineland.