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My Ability Status does not Equal my Ability to Work

New Professionals and Graduate Students
March 27, 2023 Alyssa Yoxtheimer

As a professional you always want to make sure you are doing your best to complete the job tasks given to you and do the work properly. But what happens when you are unable to do the work due to health issues that impact your daily life? As a Student Affairs professional I often found myself helping others, but struggling to take care of myself and this showed in my work. I was not taking care of myself when it came to my mental health, diabetes, and other factors that impact me on the daily. I always felt guilty for taking a sick day to recuperate and make sure that I could take care of myself. We are often told that you cannot help others if you are not well yourself, but who does the checking in on professional staff members? Sure, we have our supervisors but we are often told we need to check-in on ourselves which is harder said than done in such a busy industry. Sometimes it feels like our days are so packed we feel as if we cannot take a break to recenter and focus on what we need to accomplish. We also need to take a moment to understand we might have students looking up to us, and if we are not taking care of ourselves, why should they listen to us when we tell them to take care of themselves? 

The guilt that I have felt in the past taking a day off was tremendous. I always thought that taking a day off meant I was not doing my job well or at all. I soon realized that if I do not give myself those well-deserved breaks that I will not be able to do my job because I would be sick or not feeling well due to the impact my job was having on my body. You should never feel guilty about taking time for yourself to recharge and make sure that you are in a good place to work and continue to take on tasks. You have to be able to do what is best for you. There is always the fear that colleagues will look at you as weak or lazy but my ability status does not mean that I cannot do the work, I just need a moment to charge myself back up to the full potential I know that I have. I have had moments where colleagues have made me feel fragile due to the disabilities that impact my daily life, and that makes me feel as if I am not capable of doing my job. Your colleagues should not be the one labeling your health and the status of you being able to be successful, that is something you have to find on your own.

I have had to learn my limits and create boundaries over the last few years especially when it comes to pushing my health way too far. You can only do so many things when your body is screaming for you to take a break. The way that Higher Education puts stress on the folks working in the field can be detrimental to one's health and you need to step back and evaluate what you need to continue on your career path and not feel so burned out that you can no longer do your job due to your health. 

Burnout in Student affairs is such a recurring problem. Take a break when your body needs it. Your health is more important and you need to be healthy to continue to be successful for yourself. Always remember that your ability status does not equal your ability to work or do a job. Your ability status may impact how you work or when you need a break but you measure success for yourself and do not let folks make you feel bad for taking a break to continue on your path. Higher Ed can be overly busy and you have to make time to take the break you deserve.

Author: Alyssa Yoxtheimer (She/Her/Hers) is currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Office Of Residential Life at Ohio Wesleyan University. Alyssa was previously a Residence Hall Director at Bowling Green State University and Southwestern Michigan UNiversity. Alyssa received her Master’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Higher Education College Student Affairs and Leadership in 2019. 

Alyssa can be found on LinkedIn at:https://www.linkedin.com/in/alyssa-yoxtheimer-m-ed-5b39a5160/