by Steve Hansen, Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne University
Duquesne’s new Strategic Plan envisions “a vibrant campus community” through making “available to faculty and staff ample and fulfilling opportunities for personal and professional growth.” While this is a worthy institutional commitment, we need to remember that personal and professional growth also takes place off the Duquesne bluff by discovering what enriches us in our private lives away from work. Current research shows that time spent away from campus plays a crucial role in your overall wellbeing.
The time you spend socializing, playing and sleeping reduces burnout
In a study of faculty burnout at doctoral institutions, Padilla and Thompson (2016) say, “As expected, more social support, hours spent with family, hours spent on leisure activities and hours spent sleeping are related to a decrease in burnout.”
Among faculty, the temptation to let work replace everything else is pervasive
Sorcinelli and Near (1989) recount one faculty member’s recollection: “Since I’ve come here I’ve worked all the time and I can’t even remember activities I used to take great pleasure in, because it’s so long since I’ve let myself do that . . . I don’t like particularly what it’s done to me and I feel very strongly that I need some balance in my life.”
The happiness you find in an activity determines its contribution to your recovery from stress
In a study examining work-related, household, social and physical activities, Oerlemans, Bakker and Demerouti (2014) found that “it is not just time spent on off-work activities but the subjective experience of such activities that plays a pivotal role in the way they are linked to recovery.” In other words, the personal joy that an activity brings you contributes to the reduction of stress and the promotion of your well being.
As winter break approaches, try to spend a little time doing things that bring personal pleasure to you. Give yourself permission to play, sleep, and socialize. You will find that discovering joy in your private life will help you ultimately in your personal and professional growth.
10 activities that might bring you joy over the winter break…
- Sleep in! Your grades are finished.
- Read a book unrelated to your academic work.
- See a movie with a friend or loved one.
- Get outside. Take a walk, ski, snowshoe, window shop, walk the dog, take a bike ride, etc.
- Do something unexpected for someone. Visit a shut-in, give to a food pantry, etc.
- Spend time with family and friends.
- Be realistic about your work agenda. You can accomplish a lot by regularly setting aside brief times for writing, grant proposals and projects.
- Simplify holiday preparations by remembering that things do not need to be elaborate to be enjoyable.
- Take time to look at the holiday decorations.
- Revisit an abandoned hobby, talent or interest!