Prioritising self-care

A message from Executive Dean of Law and Business Professor Terri Joiner:

The Delta COVID-19 variant has seen the pandemic drag on, but we are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the end of lockdowns and the opening up of our lively cities, regions and campuses.

Despite the light and hope, many of us are still experiencing a sense of languishing. In positive psychology, languishing refers to the absence of flourishing or thriving. Feeling a bit rudderless and unfocussed, lacking motivation, and generally feeling … blah.

Adam Grant, Wharton professor of organisational psychology, recognises that this might be the dominant mood of 2021 and suggests in a new TED talk that one of the antidotes to languishing is flow. Flow is that feeling of being totally immersed in what you are doing; it’s being ‘in the zone’ where time just evaporates.

To help people get back their sense of ‘flow’, Grant suggests building in uninterrupted blocks of time. Blocking out time each week in the calendar, and not being side-tracked by meetings and incessant emails, provides an opportunity for deep and engaged work or play. ACU’s Wellness Wednesday is a good example of specifically designed uninterrupted time to do the things you enjoy, rebuilding that sense of wellbeing and thriving.

Another antidote for languishing is setting achievable, small goals each day to re-engage with that feeling of accomplishment and engagement. The goals might be work related or may be activities that positively impact your wellbeing. For example, making that phone call to a family member, listening to an inspiring podcast that will form the basis of a lecture, or going for a 15-minute walk in the gardens. Taking small steps to complete goals or tasks can reconnect us to the things that matter.

Of course, if that feeling of ‘blah-ness’ is lingering, taking some leave is a great opportunity to recharge and come back more energised. I recently took three weeks’ leave and I can highly recommend it! I didn’t go anywhere or do anything particularly special, but weeding and pruning the garden, reading a novel, and going on a few exhilarating bike rides just made all the difference.

Returning to campus is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with students and staff as we emerge from multiple lockdowns. I so miss those incidental exchanges that ignite deeper thinking and new ideas, often accompanied by a sense of belonging and connection. I even miss that simple morning nod of acknowledgment (real, not virtual) from colleagues as I get my first cup of coffee.

I am reminded of the last lines in the Charles Bukowski’s poem ‘Let it Enfold You’ that captures so well how the simple gesture of acknowledging another human being, as a very fundamental ritual, connects the self to the neighbourhood and supports human flourishing.

“….I entered the world once more,
drove down the hill past the houses full and empty of people,
I saw the mailman,
he waved back at me.”

I look forward to seeing you on campus.

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