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HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

Health[1] and well-being[2] 

 

Being an academic can be tremendously rewarding and engaging. Being an academic means getting the chance to conduct research on topics that you are passionate about, contributing to the frontiers of knowledge, and mentoring young students. However, being an academic can also be highly stressful.  

Stress in academia 

Academics face a range of challenges, including long work hours, a highly competitive and sometimes hierarchical atmosphere, and the pressure to rapidly and continually publish academic work. Other factors that can cause stress and impair well-being for academics include: 

 

Unfortunately, many academics experience mental and physical health complaints as a result of these pressures. Below are some of the stressors in academic work identified through research studies, and their potential outcomes:  

Stressors

Lack of resources e.g., funding, support services, financial support, fairness and autonomy in support [7][8][9].

Recognition e.g., limited access to promotions, inequitable pay, lack of rewards or recognition [7][8].

Workload e.g., task overload, work pressures, time pressure for managing competing tasks, student loads [7][8][9][10].

Leadership and management issues e.g., conflict between personal and departmental goals [8]

Job insecurity [8]

Lack of physical activity [11]

Outcomes

Mental health complaints e.g., psychological health problems, psychological strain, mental illness, loss of confidence [9][11].

Stress e.g., burnout, anxiety, exhaustion, distress [7][9][10][11].

Organisational outcomes e.g., reduced job satisfaction, reduced job commitment, withdrawal from role, poor performance [7][8][9]

Strained personal relationships, social dysfunction, poor work relationships [8][9].

Lack of resources e.g., funding, support services, financial support, fairness and autonomy in support [7][8][9].

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction workbook [18] provides clinically proven stress-management and relaxation techniques. Below are five steps better manage workplace stress:

  1. Identify how you respond to work stressors.

  2. Set goals to respond more effectively to work stressors.

  3. Change your thinking.

  4. When in conflict, negotiate.

  5. Pace and balance yourself

 

The workbook also describes a step-by-step model that you can use to turn worries into problem-solving:

1. Write down a specific situation that is really worrying you.

2. Brainstorm possible ways of improving the situation.

3. Evaluate each solution:

- If the idea is not possible, put an X next to it.

- If the idea is challenging to implement, put a ? next to it.

- If the idea can be implemented right now, put a Y next to it.

4. Set specific dates to complete all ideas marked with a Y.

5. Continue with doing the same for all ideas marked with a ? and, if possible, X.

Further recommendations include:  

  • Improve your time management or conflict resolution skills. Click here to go to Time Management or Managing Conflict.  

  • Improve your resilience. Click here to go to Resilience and Bouncing Back page.  

  • Talk to your manager or seek counselling when you’re suffering from difficulties at work. Counselling aims to get to the cause of work-related stress.  

- Visit the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), which is a national non-profit organization dedicated to counselling and psychotherapy in Australia.

- Find a professional counsellor in your local area.

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Managing Your Mental Health and Well-Being at Work

Women in Research "Small Wins" Webinar

with ARC Laureate Fellows Sharon Parker, Christine Beveridge and Lorraine Mazerolle

 

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  1. Boruchovitch, E., & Mednick, B. R. (2002). The meaning of health and illness: some considerations for health psychology. Psico-USF, 7(2), 175-183. doi:10.1590/S1413-82712002000200006

  2. Dodge, R., Daly, A., Huyton, J., & Sanders, L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(3), 222-235. doi:10.5502/ijw.v2i3.4

  3. Mavin, S., & Bryans, P. (2002). Academic women in the UK: Mainstreaming our experiences and networking for action. Gender and Education, 14(3), 235-250. doi: 10.1080/0954025022000010703

  4. Bagilhole, B., & Woodward, H. (1995). An occupational hazard warning: Academic life can seriously damage your health. An investigation of sexual harassment of women academics in a UK university. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 16(1), 37-51. doi:10.1080/0142569950160103

  5. Aluko, Y. A. (2009). Work-family conflict and coping strategies adopted by women in academia. Gender and Behaviour, 7(1), 2095-2324.

  6. Mowbray, S., & Halse, C. (2010). The purpose of the PhD: Theorising the skills acquired by students. Higher Education Research & Development, 29(6), 653-664. doi:10.1080/07294360.2010.487199

  7. Doyle, C., & Hind, P. (1998). Occupational stress, burnout and job status in female academics. Gender, Work & Organization, 5(2), 67-82. doi:10.1111/1468-0432.00047

  8. Gillespie, N. A., Walsh, M. H. W. A., Winefield, A. H., Dua, J., & Stough, C. (2001). Occupational stress in universities: Staff perceptions of the causes, consequences and moderators of stress. Work & Stress, 15(1), 53-72. doi:10.1080/02678370117944

  9. Boyd, C. M., Bakker, A. B., Pignata, S., Winefield, A. H., Gillespie, N., & Stough, C. (2011). A longitudinal test of the job demands‐resources model among Australian university academics. Applied Psychology, 60(1), 112-140. doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2010.00429.x

  10. Watts, J., & Robertson, N. (2011). Burnout in university teaching staff: a systematic literature review. Educational Research, 53(1), 33-50. doi:10.1080/00131881.2011.552235

  11. Gorczynski, P., Hill, D., & Rathod, S. (2017). Examining the construct validity of the transtheoretical model to structure workplace physical activity interventions to improve mental health in academic staff. EMS Community Medicine Journal, 1(1):002.

  12. Slišković, A., & Maslić Seršić, D. (2011). Work stress among university teachers: gender and position differences. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol, 62(4), 299-307. doi:10.2478/10004-1254-62-2011-2135

  13. Narayanan, L., Menon, S., & Spector, P. E. (1999). Stress in the workplace: A comparison of gender and occupations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(1), 63-73.

  14. Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2015). Recovery from job stress: The stressor‐detachment model as an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1), S72-S103. doi:10.1002/job.1924

  15. Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2007). The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of occupational health psychology, 12(3), 204-221. doi:10.1037/1076-8998.12.3.204

  16. Stone, A. A., Kennedy-Moore, E., & Neale, J. M. (1995). Association between daily coping and end-of-day mood. Health Psychology, 14(4), 341–349. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.14.4.341

  17. Fraser, A.  (2018). What is the ‘third space’? Adam Fraser tells us 3 ways to find yours. Retrieved from https://businesschicks.com/third-space-adam-fraser-tells-us-3-ways-find/

  18. Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., & McKay, M. (2008). The relaxation and stress reduction workbook (6th ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.