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On self-care in an academic environment

Me with bracesI got braces for the first time in my life last month. You may wonder “how does getting braces relate to Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega’s academic life?“. There’s a very simple response to that: In 2013, I decided to become the first priority in my life, both professional and personal. Out of context, undergoing teeth surgery (two wisdom teeth and a broken tooth removed) and getting braces may seem like just part of everyday life. But within the context of my (incredibly busy) academic life, the braces are a symbol of self-care, something we academics seem to forget a tad too often (anecdotal evidence notwithstanding, I think forgetting to take care of oneself IS a generalized practice in academic circles).

While I had all the intention to complete my book, and I did read and I did do a limited amount of work, this past December I spent the majority of the month recuperating from teeth surgery and learning to live (and eat) with my braces. I could have not made a better decision, I think (other than, of course, coming back to Mexico and joining CIDE Region Centro, which I think was a fantastic decision for my own growth) than finally getting my teeth straightened.

Travelling by False Creek Ferries across the water

Back in Vancouver, my morning routine included waking up at 4:45am and doing some work, heading to the gym, exercising for an hour, working a 10-12 hour day and in the evening doing artistic stuff. On weekends, I would do some work but my priority was my personal life and volleyball. Yes, I used to work and continue to work long days, but those were balanced. I am aiming to do the same here in Aguascalientes. I’ve already lined up a couple of artistic pursuits, and I’m seeking a volleyball team to join.

This professor works with 3 computers (tablet, laptop, desktop). Nephews photos for motivation and inspiration :)As for my home and office environment, we have superb offices at CIDE Region Centro, but I also have built a home office in my house. I do that wherever I live because I know that by having a home office I can do some work without having to commute to the office. And in all of the above decisions, my first thought is: if I want to have a successful academic life, I need to find some balance and exercise a healthy amount of self-care.

I do ask my students (undergraduate and graduate) and research assistants how they are doing both in their professional and personal lives, not because I want to be nosy, but because I want them to exercise self-care. I do monitor their well-being not because I want to micro-manage. I prefer to have a healthy research team than an overburdened one. There are too many stories (a few too close to home and personal) of academics who have become so burdened by the pressures of their responsibilities that they have taken extreme measures.

While I’m not yet able to do what Tanya Golash-Boza suggests (only work 40 hours a week), one of my goals in 2013 is to ensure that, whether I work 40, 50 or 100 hours a week, those hours are balanced and that I am able to still be academically productive while remaining sane and being aware of the need for self-care. If there’s something I can recommend my fellow professors out there, and their graduate students is: always make sure to take care of yourselves.

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  1. Stacey says

    This post is timely; today my doctor informed me that the pesky cough I have been ignoring for the last month or more is a serious bronchial infection with the risk of pneumonia setting in. All due to over reaching and trying to do too much in a day. I appreciate your message; take care of yourself.

  2. Sarah says

    This is a great and inspiring post. Thank you.

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