Giving Ourselves Grace When Working in Student Housing

What does your morning routine entail?  Mine involves getting multiple humans ready for the day.

Lunch?  Check.

Clothes? Check.

Does everyone smell good?  Yes.

Then it is out the door.

Generally you may be able to say that mornings in my home are busy.  One of the things that I look forward to as a part of my routine is after I drop my children off at school.  Now before you judge, I do enjoy the time with my humans, and I also enjoy the 15 minute solo car ride to work because I do a few things in my car:

  1. I turn on the music that I enjoy.
  2. I order my coffee from my favorite place,
  3. I sit and reflect.

This has been very helpful to me for several years now because I can name that the work we do in housing can be pretty intense. And to prepare for whatever the day may bring, I have found that it can be helpful to enter the workplace with a calm mind.  That has been a little difficult lately, however, because there are so many things going on in the world!  There are days when the world feels heavy and the energy in the room feels overwhelming.   I even shared with my supervisor that sometimes it feels heavy and overwhelming.   I can’t imagine that I am alone in this feeling.  Whether you learn about things from watching the news or on social media, or simply just by interacting with other humans, there is a lot going on.  And the only descriptor for everything in totality is overwhelming.

Overwhelm: to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything, to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces; destroy; crush

This word is used several times in this post and the adjectives here were so jarring that it was important to include the definition.   

Well this is why driving is something that I find to be quite enjoyable.  I am alone most of the time and I have to do something familiar.  Literally and figuratively, it has been one of the vehicles that I utilize to clear my mind before and after work.  I also enjoy the parallel level of responsibility and care that I must hold every time I get behind the wheel and at work. Driving for me is symbolic of the way I go about my work each day; remembering to  think about myself and those around me…constantly.  My focus on the road is intentional.  My focus on how I feel before I get behind the wheel is critical to those around me.  What do you do when you feel the heaviness and are overwhelmed?

I do not always drive perfectly, because that would be impossible and cause a level of anxiety that I do not want.  But I strive to be a good driver.  Have you ever had a moment where everything felt a little too overwhelming?  And by everything I mean the typical things feel hard or it takes a little more out of you than usual.  Making lunch..hard.  Putting on clothes..hard.  It’s a “drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth in the morning,” kind of overwhelming.  And then out the door and into the car. 

We just move and move in our field, don’t we?  One thing to the next.   On this particular hard day I could have sat for an extra 5 minutes to breathe.  Because sometimes we just need to slow down.  Okay, so the route we go each day involves turning left on the most cluttered and possibly stressful 4 lane intersection ever.  And it also includes an on-ramp to the interstate.  Each morning there is a decision to be made, turn into the first lane and maneuver over or turn into the second lane and cross our fingers that everyone is paying attention.

That day I chose the first lane.  But remember, I was overwhelmed and it was a hard day. I signaled and very quickly moved into the lane.  Apparently the driver behind me was not thrilled so they floored it and got on the side of me and moved to get back in front of me.  I mean how dare I get in front of them!  They had to get back in front of me.  I think I missed the notification that we were trying to place first!   Mind you we awkwardly traveled the same direction for the next 5 minutes. I thought all sorts of things in my head about the other driver and I resolved to the thought that perhaps that would be their only power move all day.  Then I started overthinking.  Is it possible that I did not give the driver behind me enough time to realize that I was getting over into their lane?  Maybe I had forgotten to signal?  Did my feeling of being overwhelmed create a little brain fog and perhaps I truly cut them off?  Was I being responsible to the other drivers around me?

It may be safe to say that many of us are feeling overwhelmed.  As much as we want to be responsible and caring to those around us, sometimes we just are not. Sometimes we may lack the capacity.  Sometimes we are the driver who is overwhelmed and could have taken 5 minutes to breathe before we got on the road.  And sometimes we are the driver that just needs to take a little power back.

What kind of driver are you out there?

In our departments, how often do we sit back and look at everything that we have on our plates?

Do we question the why and how?

Why do we do it?

How will we get it done?

How will we care for ourselves and the humans we are responsible for?

In a time where the world feels overwhelming we have to allow space to slow down, to feel, to refer, and to rest. My favorite moments involve care for myself and care for those around me.  I hope that as you go into this new year, you are able to think about how you are allowing for grace, for yourself, and for your teams.  Let’s not make the world more overwhelming.


  • What healthy resources will I tap into when I feel overwhelmed?
  • Who is/are my co-pilot(s) when I feel overwhelmed?
  • What are the things that can be cut or can wait to be completed in our department?
  • What is the code word that I will use to signal that I need 5 minutes or a break?
  • What is my department’s view on self care and wellness?
  • What are the assumptions that I make about the other “drivers” in my workplace?
  • What is the actual level of responsibility and care that you are expected to hold at work?
  • Does anyone really like orange juice after brushing their teeth? 🙂

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