Often, students are integrated into the conversation about mental health and wellness, but what about professors?
Throughout the semester, LaShonda Eaddy, advertising/public relations assistant professor at Penn State, said she’s used to “things never being done” but priotizes things that are important to her.
“I think in academia our challenges, our roles and responsibilities are quite unique than what they are in the traditional 9 to 5,” Eaddy said.
According to Eaddy, mental wellness means “stress-free but comfortable in the place” she’s in. To her, being able “to still accomplish” the things that frequently stress her out means she’s in a good headspace.
Being a mother, a wife and a professor, one way she prioritizes her mental wellness is by designating alone time by “burning candles” and listening to a Spotify playlist while in the shower.
“It’s helpful because even if any other part of the day is not about me, then at least I know I can do one thing for myself,” Eaddy said. “I think it's important for everyone to find their thing, too.”
Similarly, Lydia Owens, professor in the department of sociology and criminology, said she prioritizes time for herself by running.
As a mother, wife and professor like Eaddy, prioritizing activities that help promote Owens’ mental wellness is important. She said this led her to train for a half marathon.
“I have support with child care on the weekends so that I can fit in long runs on Saturdays, and I fit my training runs [in] during the week and the evening,” she said via email. “Running is the best self-care I have going for at the moment.”
Owens said running also helps her stay on top of challenges that jeopardize her mental wellness.
“I very often feel like I have three arenas of life to manage — my work, my kids and keeping up with chores like laundry and groceries, and my own well-being,” she said. “The first one to go is my own well-being.”
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Stephanie Velegol, acting associate head and assistant professor in the College of Engineering, said her mental health is challenged during the semester when “things start to come at you all at once.” She said she works out how to rank her priorities to focus on one at a time.
When a person has to “juggle” too many things at once, Velegol said people need to ask themselves: “What can I drop? What’s OK that I can pick up later? What is going to be really hard if that drops?”
Velegol said similarly to students, professors feel the stress when it comes to deadlines, getting assignments or grading done, and balancing those obligations with a social life.
“I want to see my family and spend time with friends. If we keep dropping the friends and family, then that comes back to wellness and ends up hurting us in the end,” Velegol said. “Trying to balance all of that, just like students, can be difficult.”
Eaddy said a motto she’s taken on recently is “just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should,” when tackling more than she can handle.
“For people like me, who pride themselves on going the extra mile and doing more than what the average person would,” Eaddy said, “it's a bad trait for the person because you don’t realize the ways it is affecting you.”
Velegol said she seeks support with her “close colleagues” to debrief if she has trouble juggling her to-do list.
“I think having people to just talk to, even if it's just talking about what’s happening and processing it out loud,” she said. “It does help.”
Being a chemical engineering professor, Velegol extends her efforts for mental wellness in the classroom, choosing to talk about topics like imposter syndrome and adding in “inspirational Fridays.”
“I just think that there are things that faculty can do to share a little bit,” Velegol said. “The whole class isn’t supposed to be about mental wellness, but just taking a couple minutes and sharing [something inspirational] can help.”
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