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Overwhelmed

31 January 2017 by Lisa Meloncon

Sometimes I look up a word that I know that I know or think that I know. I look it up because I want to read the precision that is often found in dictionary definitions, and sometimes, the alternate definitions provide a layer that I had not considered. Most of us appreciate words and their nuance, and lately, I have found that I have been looking up words more frequently, just to make sure I do know what they mean.

The word I looked up this morning was “overwhelm.” This word has popped up a lot lately in social media posts and in many conversations that I had by folks struggling to find their feet in the new term and in what increasingly feels like a new, and a bit unstable, world. The online dictionary tells me that “overwhelm” means to bury or drown beneath a huge mass; defeat completely; or give too much of a thing to a (someone), inundate. It’s the last definition that I think many of us of are feeling….inundated with too much.

As I have written before, I have no magic words or secret techniques. It’s hard to focus on the everyday-ness of our jobs when it feels like so many other things are more important and need our attention. Right now, those feelings can be overwhelming. So as usual, I turn to the painfully pragmatic as a way to remind myself and to remind you that we do have some control over own lives.

In an attempt not to feel overwhelmed here are a few suggestions:

Practice Self Care

It’s not just a buzz word, but something we each need to take seriously. We need to eat regularly. We need to try and not over do on the caffeine or alcohol. We need to sleep and exercise. We need to have down time to give our minds and bodies and spirits a chance to recover. How you practice self-care is a personal thing. I just want to encourage you to do it.

Step away from social media

I get the fear of missing out and all that, but social media can definitely be a double edged sword. Try to limit yourself or make sure you have down time away from it to see if you do actually feel better and less overwhelmed.

Engage the Mundane and Everyday

While it may seem odd or feel a little wrong, our regular lives must go on. Engaging with aspects of the mundane or everyday can be immensely rewarding. For example, as educators, we’re on the front lines of helping people (try to) see things differently. At the very least, we have the opportunity to expose students to new ideas and concepts. Engaging in the everyday-ness of teaching or a public service project (that we would do anyway) or [insert your thing here] can help offset the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Recognize your limits

We cannot be all things to all people. This is an important point to try and remember. We do have jobs and responsibilities so anything new we add is, well, new and in addition to. That means it is important recognize our limits and when you take something new on that you should let something else go. (see point 1 about self care!)

Find your comfort zone

We do not all have to engage and #resist in the exact same ways. It is ok if you happen to be doing things differently than the others around you. It is ok for you to find your comfort zone on how (and if) you want to engage with current events. There are no rules to follow but your own. Not everyone feels comfortable doing certain things so the key is to find the types of engagement that work for you.

Be thankful

I have written of this one before, but it has always been a tried and true approach for me. Finding the time to be thankful is important tactic toward keeping things in perspective focusing on the things you can control.

Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response to being inundated with lots and lots of things and feelings. There are no perfect solutions, but remember that you’re probably not alone in feeling overwhelmed. There’s a big community here and willing to help. Just reach out and ask.

Wishing you joy, good health, productivity, and feeling a little bit less overwhelmed.

 

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Just start

3 January 2017 by Lisa Meloncon

 

Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking...Just start.One of the good things about this job is that we consistently get the chance to start over. We have, at minimum, two terms a year where we can start fresh and new. We have the summer where we can start “catching up” or focusing solely on one task or another. That’s quite a gift in its own way.

I had forgotten about how much this can mean until I saw the image above come across my tweet feed. It resonated. I think it resonated so much for me because of a trying 2016, because of current events, because of the renewed hope a new calendar year can bring.

Start. That’s a good word for this year, 2017. I’m going to start doing and continuing to do a few things to ensure there is joy and purpose in my life so I thought I would share them with you.

  • Start by thinking and (re)making boundaries
    This was inspired by Liza. She makes a great point about describing what boundaries are good for, and in this job, it’s important we have them.

  • Start by setting priorities
    To make a doable schedule, you have to set priorities. That means you have to look at what you want to do and balance it with what you have to do and finding that spot in the middle. Set your big goals and then reduce them down J
  • Start by making doable schedules
    I have many times preached about the schedule, but for me, it’s the only way to get things started and finished. Making doable schedules means you get things done so instead of self critique, we can do some celebrating.
  • Start the day by writing
    Writing can mean anything that moves you toward a goal. It can writing an assignment, writing comments on student papers, writing a report for a committee obligation, and of course, it can mean doing some activity toward a research project. But it’s good to schedule this dedicated time to write so that there is always progress toward your end goals (no matter whether that goal is teaching, research or service or some overlap of the three).
  • Start by scheduling time for self care
    Write into that schedule time for exercise, coffee with friends, playing with the dogs/cats, extra hang out time with the children….whatever brings you joy and gives you a mental and physical break from the work

As you’re thinking through boundaries and priorities and schedules, you may want to consider ways that you can start to engage differently with the world.

Start small and explore different options. While I have typically been quite private about my activities outside of work, I have always had them. I volunteer at several organizations that mean a lot to me. I have shifted those commitments recently, but I am still engaged in a way that makes a measure of difference—one that I can see and feel.

Reconnecting with friends and communities that offer support and laughs is also a great way to start each week and ground ourselves in the people that add positivity to our lives. Start by picking a day and try turning it into a routine. The #womeninTC community is always around to talk, to brainstorm, to listen, to whine with, to cry with, and to laugh with. Just reach out through one of our communication channels. Sometimes to start, you need a hand.

Start, too, by remembering that we can only control what we can control. My mother actually told us this all the time growing up, and recently, I have found much comfort in hearing her voice in my head say those words.

Originally this post was much longer but then I realized that start as a coming into being is highly personal and highly contingent. So I decided to delete big swaths of it and just move to encouraging you just to start.

And I’m going to start by wishing y’all good luck and by looking forward to seeing all the great starts as the term and the year unfolds.

Onward.

 

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Things you can control

posted 5 November 2016 by Lisa Meloncon

I wish I could say something profound to help alleviate the stress and anxiety that a lot of us are feeling. I wish I could find the words that would assure everyone that everything is going to be ok. I wish I could figure out how to care less. But I can’t do any of those.

things-that-matter-things-you-can-control The life of the mind is real. Thus, it makes it hard to separate our work lives, our personal lives, and the world we live in. We’ve been trained to see those things as linked and then to critically examine them. And when you’re left feeling totally helpless because there is so little outside of your control, well, there is some stress associated with that.

One of my most favorite things about this job, and particularly my involvement in #womeninTC, is that I have had the opportunity to talk to so many of you, to really get to know you. The number of emails or calls I get from folks needing to talk does not faze me. Instead, it is the gift of community and I am incredibly honored that you trust me enough to reach out. That is what this community is for. But in small sample of folks I’ve talked to this term, I can tell you that this term has been one with increased stress. It seems the anxiety and fears about our interconnected worlds have reached epic proportions. And no matter what happens in the election next week (and the many other unjust and mind boggling events going on), it seems those fears and anxieties are not going to immediately dissipate.

So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the ideas about what matters and what I can actually control. The little spot in the middle—whether we want to admit it or not—is probably as true as anything. There’s only so much that we really do have control over. I’ve been thinking through ways to regain a semblance of that control. So I’ve made sure that I’ve considered those things I’m grateful for; I’ve made sure to practice self-care and surrounding myself with those people that matter; I’ve worked at “paying it forward” in a number of ways important to me; I’ve worked on projects that bring me joy. All of these small orientations have helped me feel as though I’m in that middle spot.

That’s what I wanted to remind us about—to focus on those things we can control. One of those things is our own reactions, which is reflected in how we choose to live and participate in the various and numerous communities to which we belong. I recently had a conversation with a brand new graduate student in the field. I was put on the spot when asked what would be the number one piece of advice I would give. My response, “Be kind.” This kindness is a form of caring and higher education can never has too much of that!

Today and in the coming days, be kind to yourself and be kind to others. It’s a tough world out there but kindness is certainly something that sits in the middle of things that matter and things we can control.

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