Intentional Summer Break: Why Self-Care Is Crucial for Women of Color in Higher Education Leadership

Higher Ed Leadership Series

As summer break begins, here is a gentle reminder of the cyclical nature of academic life. It is a timely moment to reflect on the essence of self-care. For women of color in leadership roles within higher education, the need for self-care is more than just a pamper day at the spa; it is a fundamental piece to ensure sustained professional and personal well-being. 

This summer break presents the perfect window to prioritize self-care as a therapeutic practice and a strategic investment in your long-term career aspirations and overall health.

The Importance of Self-Care

Higher education leadership is an incredibly demanding career, where responsibilities are manifold, and the pressures are often intense. Self-care tends to be pushed to the bottom of our priority list during the day-to-day stressors. However, it is essential to recognize that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. Taking care of our physical and mental well-being ensures we can tackle the complexities of our intense roles with efficacy and efficiency. For women of color who deal with the added components of racial and gendered challenges, self-care takes on an even more critical role.

The Summer Break: An Opportunity for Renewal

Summer break offers a unique opportunity to recalibrate and renew without the demand from your relentless academic calendar. This period of slower daily tasks is not merely about rest but intentional restoration, enabling you to return in the fall semester with renewed vigor and clarity.

Ideas for Self-Care

  1. Physical Well-Being: Engage in activities that promote your physical health. This could be as simple as taking daily walks in nature, practicing yoga, or participating in a hobby that gets you moving, such as gardening or dancing. Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress, boost mood, and improve overall health. I want you to view daily movement as restoring rather than punishing yourself.
  2. Mental and Emotional Health: Allocate time for mindfulness and reflection. Regarding self-care, focusing on your mental and emotional well-being is crucial. Doing things such as meditation, journaling, or even simply spending time in quiet contemplation can help to clear the mental clutter and foster emotional equilibrium. Reading for pleasure, engaging in creative pursuits, or connecting with loved ones are powerful ways to nurture your mental and emotional well-being. Try a digital detox; being away from our phones, computers, and tablets for even a few days can drastically improve our mindset. 
  3. Professional Development: While self-care is about rest, it is also about growth. Use this time to invest in your professional development in enriching, not burdensome ways. This might include reading leadership literature, attending virtual conferences, or engaging in mentorship opportunities that offer inspiration and new perspectives. 
  4. Self-Compassion: Cultivate a practice of self-compassion by acknowledging the unique challenges you face and granting yourself the grace to be imperfect. Last week, we discussed the importance of reflecting on the previous semester and how to shift our mindset to view obstacles and mistakes as incredible learning opportunities. Embrace the understanding that self-care is an ongoing journey and it is okay to prioritize your needs.

The Benefits of Self-Care

Self-care has many benefits that extend far beyond the immediate feeling of relaxation. By investing in your well-being, you are enhancing your capacity to lead effectively. Physical self-care boosts energy levels, enhances immunity, and reduces the risk of burnout. Mental and emotional self-care fosters resilience, improves decision-making, and enhances your ability to manage stress. Collectively, these benefits contribute to a more balanced and fulfilling professional life where you are reaching your full potential in leadership. 

Supporting Long-Term Career Goals

Most importantly, self-care is a powerful tool for achieving long-term career goals. The clarity and focus derived from regular self-care practices enable you to set and pursue career objectives more precisely. Moreover, leaders who model self-care set a powerful example for their colleagues and institutions, fostering a culture that values and promotes holistic well-being.

As you navigate the summer break, I encourage you to embrace self-care with intention and commitment. How will you practice self-care? Let me know in the comments! 

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