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Gratitude and self-care in the face of adversity

Health, Safety, and Well-being
November 16, 2015 Melanie O. Matson Emerson College

This is the time of year when I reflect on everything I appreciate. I am thankful for supportive family and friends, my health, clean air to breathe and water to drink, the roof over my head, food on the table, a bed to sleep on, engaging colleagues, and amazing students.

It is also the time in the semester where many of us have been operating at an intense level and will soon pause for mid-year breaks. In order to make it through the rest of the semester, I find myself thinking of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and focusing on the basics: breathing, eating, hydrating, sleeping.

Self-care is the intentional act we do to take care of ourselves. I am reminded of the statement flight attendants share before a flight, “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” We must take care of ourselves in order to support our students and colleagues.

While I am thankful for the opportunity to work in Student Affairs, I also recognize the daily struggles students and colleagues are experiencing around the world: racism, transphobia, homophobia, interpersonal and institutional violence, debt and the rising cost of higher education, earning a livable wage, and so much more. How do our campus community members practice individual self-care when the environment does not care or support them. 

Sometimes self-care is in defiance of systems, including higher education, that try to hold people down or keep people out.  It is a way to persevere, survive, influence social change, and boldly state, “I have the right to be here.” As Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

Self-care is a must in our field, and leadership means taking care of ourselves, role modeling self-care, and establishing organizational structures which reinforce the well-being of our campus communities.

The NASPA Center for Women will be continuing the conversation around self-care with a Lunch and Learn series. More information will be coming soon.

Learn more about the Center for Women at the 2016 NASPA Annual Conference as the Center will have a strong presence. Candid Conversations continues to grow and focus on mentoring and supporting female-identified and trans professionals at all levels of Student Affairs. The Center for Women will host a session on “Understanding Women’s Leadership: Intersecting Identities.” We will also host a reception and honor recipients of the Ruth Strang Research Award and Zenobia Hikes Memorial Award. We hope you will join us!