With a Steady Stream of Anxieties, AHEPPP is My Remedy

For me (as I’m sure for you), fall is typically a time of exhaustion and excitement. Those feelings are folded together into a series of programming that helps my team and I connect with students and families. The events are generally joyful and the exhaustion is typically acute; bound to four or five solid days of early mornings, late nights and countless conversations with strangers (that drain the introvert in me). My anxiety is usually high during this time of year, but I have found ways to control it and find comfort in keeping busy - and in banking my 20K daily steps running around campus. 

This year is different though. My introvert self is loving the work-from-home format and the ability to cocoon myself away from social situations. However, the boundless joy students and families typically exude during Move-in Weekend has been replaced by frustration and disappointment as our campus has moved to an entirely virtual model for - at the very least - fall quarter. The four to five day sprint of events and energy I typically have to put out is now stretching into a ten-week marathon of attempts to offer community-building spaces in the rigid virtual boxes of the Zoom platform. Where I would traditionally be literally running myself ragged, I now occupy a 13-sq. foot space and three (yes, three!) computer screens. My average daily step count is around 500 and my anxiety is ever-increasing without much of an outlet through which to expend that energy. 

Routine is all but out the window at this point. My eating habits and physical fitness efforts have tanked; I have found countless excuses to tell myself when I don’t climb out of bed for that morning run, or use Sunday to meal prep like I did before the shutdowns. What have remained consistent, however, are my AHEPPP connections; not only my connection to the organizational resources and social media conversations, but also to the community of colleagues I have built through my involvement with the organization. 

My brain struggles to shut off at night. Ilie in bed thinking about the two dozen tasks I didn’t get to complete that day or the ever-growing inbox of emails I have to address. In these moments of anxiety I wonder “Am I the only one dealing with this?”, “Is it just our parents and families who are so angry?”, and “What could I be doing to better support them and/or our campus community?” Instead of letting the voice inside my head grow louder, I’ve turned to my amazing AHEPPP colleagues to ask those questions. And then I’m not alone. I’m validated by the many other professionals facing the same concerns. We talk, we strategize and we also laugh at the insanity of it all. We commiserate around wanting to be everything for everyone; after all, many of us who are drawn to this work are natural “carers” and we remind one another to give ourselves grace, take a breath and identify what is and what is not within our control. These spaces with AHEPPP truly provide me calmness and allow me to refocus as if I were popping a pill, but better than that because they also fuel me with ideas and resolve that we will get through this. 

We do not, and likely will not, have all the answers for some time. We will be everything we can for our university’s families, and we will ensure they feel valued and heard in their concerns. So when you begin to feel overwhelmed, stuck or anxious, reach out! This community is here for us all, to make us stronger and better in our work, and to provide us with real human connection.
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