Are Higher Ed Leaders Invested Enough in Self-Care?

Are Higher Ed Leaders Invested Enough in Self-Care?

There’s no shortage of takes on what colleges and universities can do to meet the needs of the faculty, staff, and students they serve. I’ve been known to touch on this topic myself

But in speaking about “colleges” and “universities” in such broad and abstract terms, it’s easy to overlook the individuals who drive these institutions, the leaders who help schools fulfill their missions. These leaders also have needs.

So, if I may ask. . . how are you doing right now? 

The effort you expend to meet so many people’s needs is noble and necessary. But it’s hard to pour from an empty cup. Self-care is essential not only for your own well-being, but also to ensure that you can continue to serve everyone around you.

Self-Care for Higher Ed Leaders

What can you do to prioritize your mental health, avoid burnout, and be your best self? I’m happy to share some strategies that work for me:

Think globally, act locally

This 50-year-old bumper sticker still applies today. It’s impossible to solve big problems overnight. But when you feel overwhelmed by the world’s injustices, performing small acts of kindness in your community can be a balm. Research shows that kindness is good for our health

Hold the door open for someone. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway. Leave a big tip next time you go out to eat. Connecting with others in these ways is rejuvenating.

Find your routines and follow them religiously

Routines infuse our lives with a sense of calm and predictability. Perhaps most importantly, they eliminate the need for decision-making in a world that offers too many choices. 

A good routine doesn’t need to be overly ambitious, either—the best practices are the ones you can commit to every day, if only for a minute or two.

Ritualize the passing of time

The pandemic robbed us of many things, including the concrete milestones we subconsciously use to mark the passing of time. Life is finally beginning to return to “normal.” But one of my personal takeaways from the last couple of years is to be more deliberate in how I acknowledge and celebrate life’s milestones. 

Leadership burnout is a real problem, with 60% of leaders reporting that they feel used up at the end of the workday. Competing demands for your time, energy, and compassion likely won’t let up anytime soon, so it’s up to you to take care of yourself. Using acts of self-care to fill your cup puts you in a better position to serve your faculty, staff, and students with the empathy and compassion they need and deserve.  

When you take care of yourself, you can be of greater service to your community and your school’s mission. What will you do to prioritize self-care starting today? 

Interested in continuing the conversation? MindMax regularly hosts meet-ups of higher ed leaders to discuss important issues facing schools and students today. If you’d like the chance to connect with a group of higher ed colleagues, contact Lillian Kerrigan at for more information.