The RA Diaries - Taking Care of YOU

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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How to be responsible for other students while also taking care of yourself.


Real talk -- when I was an RA, some days were pretty overwhelming. Between my residents going through issues, keeping up with RA duties, writing papers, working an internship, hosting a radio show, and having a personal life, my ability to juggle my time was falling apart before me -- and my health with it. I thought I was superwoman; I had pushed myself to the point where I was skipping meals, sleeping four to five hours a night, having major headaches, and taking very few breaks. One day, all of my decisions caught up with me and my physical and emotional health began to suffer, and unfortunately, crash. This can happen if you don’t take care of yourself!

This experience made me reevaluate a lot of my choices.

Where did I go wrong?

What could I have done differently?

Who could I have talked to?

Just like the saying “a therapist has their own therapist,” an RA is entitled to their own resources just like any other student. RAs should not be expected to be superheroes, to put out all the fires, or to maintain a facade of perfection. RAs are real students, working just as hard as any other student to graduate. Sometimes expectations befalls us and it doesn’t match reality. So, with that in mind, here are a few things you need to understand:

You Are NOT Anyone’s Mom or Dad

Did you raise them? Do you pay their tuition? Do you mark them down on your taxes? No. You are an RA. This means you’re a mentor, guide, friendly face, community builder, and confidant. When your residents need your help, be there for them, especially in an emergency. Do not hover over them and cater to their every whim (especially freshmen). Give them the tools they need, but let them grow. When you notice a pattern where they are asking more from you than you have to give, talk to your Resident Director (RD) about the matter. Your RD can intervene in these situations. If the issues are not urgent, ask the student to meet you during your office hours.

Campus Resources Are There for You Too

You’d be surprised how often RAs forget about this. All of the resources that offer assistance on campus are available to ALL students, including yourself. If you’re an RA going through something difficult, seek out a professional if your school offers mental health services such as a Counseling or Wellness Center! Their job is to help.

Your RD and your fellow RAs might also be great confidants as well. They might understand better than anyone what you are going through, especially if you feel like your days are one balancing act at a time. All RAs have the same job. Who better to understand door tag deadlines, duty woes, and 4AM lockouts better than a fellow RA or RD who has done the same before?

Make Time for Yourself

Even if you have to pencil it into your schedule, give yourself time to do WHATEVER you want. Watch TV, read a book, write in a journal, play a game, exercise, or anything else! My RD gave me this advice and it definitely helped keep me sane during a rough semester.

Sleep! (Or Sneak In A Power Nap)

It’s not uncommon to pull an all-nighter in college (especially if you’re an RA) but try to give yourself enough sleep time. It’s also important to note that for those who dorm or live close enough to campus (RA or not), 20 - 30-minute naps are AMAZING and do wonders*. Try not to exceed 20 - 30 minutes though or you may end up feeling groggier than before.

“Doritos Are Not Lunch”

This is an actual quote from my fellow RAs on my staff. Please make sure you’re eating substantial meals and not chips out of a vending machine. If this becomes an almost regular occurrence, it’s time to make some changes ASAP. Clarke University highlights 10 Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Students that you may want to check out!

Embrace the Good Stress, Evict the Bad

Stress can be awesome (said no one ever) but it’s true! Some stress can bring out the best in people and push them to do great things. Everyone’s stress levels vary, but a little stress can be enough of a push for you to take charge, handle yourself, and exceed your expectations. When stress begins to feel suffocating, that’s when you need to take a step back, evaluate, and come up with a different way of handling it. Remember some stress-relieving techniques including exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises.

You are your most important self. Though being an RA is a flexibility act, stretching yourself too thin won’t support you or your residents. If I had known then what I know now things would have turned out differently for me, but going through this made me realize and appreciate my limits, my options, and the value of taking care of myself.


"Napping." National Sleep Foundation, Accessed 12 Mar. 2019

Alyssa-DelValle.pngWRITTEN BY
Alyssa Del-Valle
Macmillan Learning

With a BA in Communications and Music and a "Mouseters" in all things Disney, when not writing fabulous articles this native New Yorker is either making up songs in her head about her daily interactions, practicing voice overs for the next hair care commercial, or munching on Doritos she couldn't resist grabbing at her local bodega. The purple bag is hard to resist.