For many computer science and engineering instructors, anxiety and stress are all too familiar feelings. To support our community of zyBooks instructors, we’re exploring the topic of mental health in STEM higher education and raising actionable strategies to help professors overcome burnout. With that in mind, we invited Dr. Lisa Jaremka, associate professor of social psychology for the University of Delaware, to share her mental health research and stress management strategies.
Dr. Lisa Jaremka’s 4 tips for STEM instructors to overcome burnout and effectively manage stress
1. Align your time with your priorities.
- Laser focus on your priorities.
- Regularly list and evaluate your current responsibilities.
- Explore how you can reduce what is on your plate.
2. Set firm boundaries.
Academic work can easily take over our lives if we aren’t proactive in creating boundaries. Create three boundaries for yourself to hold in the workplace. Once these are routine, add more. Dr. Jaremka’s examples:
- No email notifications on your phone, and don’t check email at night or on weekends.
- Limit work to a set number of hours on weekends and have an end time for weekdays.
- Dedicate a specific number of hours for uninterrupted family time and for breaks.
3. Have self-compassion.
There are often high expectations placed on many computer science and engineering instructors, especially those in higher education. Burnout is a natural response to these challenges. Be compassionate with yourself and stay focused.
4. Be a change agent.
- For yourself: Explore what external factors are impacting your mental health and how you can advocate for yourself to change those barriers.
- For others: What are your spheres of influence? Try to find ways you can reduce burnout for people you impact, such as your students.
About Lisa M. Jaremka, Ph.D.
Dr. Lisa Jaremka is an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware (UD), with expertise in social psychology and the physiological consequences of negative personal interactions. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Buffalo (State University of New York) and her doctorate in social psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After postdoctoral work at Ohio State University, she worked at the Institute for Behavioral Research Medicine focusing on psychoneuroimmunology. She is the director of UD’s Close Relationships and Health Lab. Dr. Jaremka is a renowned speaker and author on rejection, impostor syndrome, and burnout in academia.