Rebecca Hapes, Chair, NACADA Advisor Training and Development Commission
Many advisors and administrators understand basic information about stress and the dangers of its prolonged duration on health and well-being (Scott, 2014). Additionally, many also understand the various contributing factors of advisor burnout and the necessity to mitigate and counter these factors (Deets, 2014). Unfortunately, the practical application of these tools is something advisors and administrators may still struggle with in terms of finding an effective balance of their roles at work and home.
Finding a way to negotiate this balance in a positive manner is necessary to effectively deal with the chronic stress that the position of academic advising can bring. The demands and responsibilities placed on advisors can be overwhelming. It is easy to become stressed, feel rushed or get flustered with the various projects, meetings, and students waiting for assistance. Rather than dealing with stress in unhealthy ways, advisors should look at a regular practice of the PEACE approach for stress management.
Advisors and other individuals who approach not only their stressful situations, but life in general, with this approach may find a more manageable and sustainable method for work-life balance and may then strive to live their life according to their perceived purpose.
Pause—Stop. Breathe. Repeat. This process alone helps to reduce our stress levels and can counteract one’s fight or flight stress response.
In the midst of stressful and chaotic situations, individuals many times unintentionally take short and shallow breaths, decreasing the amount of oxygen intake into their body. The process of simply stopping to intentionally take a moment for slow, deep breaths will not only counteract the stress fight or flight response, but will allow oxygen to flow better through ones system and will allow advisors to think more clearly about the situation at hand. Asking then, “What is the very next thing that needs to happen right now?” and completing that task will also assist with direction in acute stressful and chaotic times.
Evaluate priorities—Where an individual’s dreams, gifts, and passions collide is a ‘sweet spot’ (Swope, 2011). It is at this place where an individual is most likely to be functioning at their highest potential, since individuals are typically at their best when they showcase their personal strengths.
Research shows that when individuals perceive they are performing their best, they are more engaged at work and less likely to experience burnout (Huebner, 2011a). This information begs the question that should be asked of each individual, “Are you working in your personal sweet spot?” and if the answer is no, perhaps additional reflection should take place to determine why not.
Individual advisors should assess their activities, both personal and professional, through the lens of their dreams, gifts and passions – their ‘sweet spot’ – to determine if all of their current activities should remain and if proposed activities should be accepted. Reflection of this nature may open a conversation between an advisor and their supervisor with respect to workload and responsibilities. As advising centers, colleges, or departments (depending on the advising structure) are frequently asked to do more with less, this can be a catalyst for intentional conversations about realistic expectations and workload. It is important to remember that for every ‘yes’ decision an advisor makes, there is a corresponding ‘no’ decision taking place, since advisors cannot add something to their responsibilities and calendar without taking something else away and having less time for something else. This realization is important as individuals have a tendency to overestimate abilities while underestimating the amount of time an activity will take, which is a sure fire recipe for disaster and frustration, both at work and home.
Assess process—Evaluate the processes which cause the most stress to determine if there is a more effective or efficient way to perform them. Including appropriate stakeholders in those conversations is crucial in order to incorporate a wide array of perspectives and to potentially achieve a more desired outcome. Perhaps there is a novel way of thinking about the situation at hand that may result in a different outcome.
Creative solutions—Research shows that creativity fosters work place positivity, which allows for stronger connections between employees and for more flexible and resilient workers. Work environments that foster creativity have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs, exhibit less turnover, and are more connected to the success of the office. The ability to be creative and engage with creative solutions is connected to an individual’s sense of well-being (Huebner, 2011b). In attempting to reduce stress and burnout, including advisors in identifying and creating solutions to issues is a method to increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and overall well-being.
Productivity tips and tricks such as utilizing specialized email signatures for increased efficiency in responding to email, methods such as the only handle it once (OHIO) approach for dealing with paper, routine menu planning, sharing of favorite recipes, once a month cooking or meals swaps for home meals can be shared and planned with and amongst colleagues in an effort to maximize efficiency, reduce stress, and increase social support.
Encouragement—Positive interaction with others, including the free exchange of ideas, can bring about the increase of feelings of engagement. This is perhaps why many advisors report feeling good after attending a professional conference. It has been shown that the more attached individuals feel to their coworkers, the more they rely on these coworkers for social support resources. A professional support network can help individuals cope with stress by providing emotional support as well as providing opportunities to share success stories with others (Huebner, 2011a). Some institutions are fortunate to have organized advising entities on their campus referred to as perhaps advising councils, advising organizations, etc., while other institutions do not, but regardless of the nature of the advising organizational structure, the joining together of advisors can be integral in professional retention and engagement whether it occurs in a formal or informal basis.
Striving for an optimal balance through the PEACE approach may be of help both professionally and personally as individuals strive for their own personal ‘sweet spot’ and work to fulfill their own life’s purpose. In turn, as advisors gain proficiency in balancing various roles in this manner, these methods, skills sets, and tools can be passed along to their advisees and other students with whom they work and interact.
Senior Academic Advisor II
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University
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Cite this article using APA style as: Hapes, R. (2015, December). The PEACE approach for balance and stress management. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]