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Research tells us that feeling grateful is good for our mental and physical well-being. In the spirit of gratitude, we encourage you to pause and consider all the things in your life that are going well. What are you grateful for and how does expressing gratitude help you cope with stress?
Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., USA
The weekend before Thanksgiving is the most trying on my professional calendar. I am grateful for the friends who made sure I did something fun; others who called, texted, and emailed encouragement; my dog, who put a comforting head on my knee; my husband, who cooked something deliciously comforting for body and soul; my older son, whose words echoed in my head; and my younger son, who took out the trash. As always, it’s the little things that matter most!
Niya Bond, University of Maine, Me., USA
I’m extremely grateful for places and spaces like this one. Last April, I suddenly felt called to start writing publicly -- putting it all out there in regards to my ongoing personal and professional journeys. I was apprehensive about this move at first, but I've discovered that one of the specific rewards of public writing is resonance. I've been building some amazing communities, not exclusively, but especially with other women who want to wonder about the world together. Feeling a part of something, feeling supported and thinking about giving back as much as I get are my strategies for coping with stress.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA
Because I am effusive in my emotions, I have frequent outbursts of gratitude. I’m not all that sure how it helps with the stress -- but also when I go to swim team after a hard day at work, my swimmers snap me out of it. And when I get home, my dog always wants to cuddle the stress away. But I think the most stress-relieving act of gratitude that I try to do is to tell my kids that I love them and that I am proud of them. I also try to practice self-gratitude -- this body I have is a gift, and I need to remember that. If not for my body, then there would be no way to enjoy all of the things I have in my life to be grateful for.
Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Academic Impressions, Denver, Colo., USA
When I get stressed at work, one thing that works for me is picturing my younger self and the impression she would have on my life now. She would be amazed at what she has accomplished, would be incredulous at the work I get to do and would be so happy to see how marriage, career and life has worked out. These thoughts help me to keep “small things small” and to recognize the many blessings I have in my life!
Jaime O’Connor, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Ga., USA
I have developed some significant health issues over the past year, and I am exceedingly grateful for my supportive colleagues and the accommodations my university has provided to allow me to continue to do work that I love and find fulfilling. On rough days, it helps to remember and be grateful for this opportunity that many others with my condition do not have.
Janni Aragon, University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada
I use a gratitude journal that has a morning and evening areas for entry. I like to use five to 10 minutes in the morning to think about what I have planned for the day and what I am going to do. Then, at the end of the day I reflect about what took place. This is an effective practice for me. I see consistently that I note how thankful I am for my family, friends and my students. The entries remind me that I have lots to be thankful for in my life. While things might feel like the proverbial dumpster fire around the world, thinking about gratitude grounds me.
Melissa Nicolas, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., USA
I didn’t need to reflect on this question for a second. I am grateful for my new colleagues -- they rock in so many ways -- and for getting back my writing groove. My students constantly remind me why I love this work and they make me hopeful about the future. I appreciate that my job has the flexibility to allow me to keep doing it despite health issues. My kids are thriving despite their inevitable growing pains, and I got a puppy! Much, much to be thankful for. My coping skills are very much a work in progress, but I am trying to be OK with letting go of the things that don’t bring me joy.
Marcelle Hayashida, University of California, Irvine, Calif., USA
I am grateful for my team here at UCI. This team consists largely of people I have had the pleasure of hiring or promoting, and they are persevering in an extremely difficult quarter with unprecedented student crises. I am grateful for excellent health insurance and thorough doctors, who are skilled at helping me manage various autoimmune issues. Finally, I am grateful for my family, who help me put work stressors into perspective. Taking a break to be grateful for finding and marrying my best friend, having hilarious children and having supportive parents provides a desperately needed opportunity to slow down and “not sweat the small stuff.”
Anna CohenMiller, Nazarbayev University, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Sometimes I think of gratitude like magic. When I stop and think about how things work out, it constantly amazes me and provides sustenance to keep going when things are hard. When times are the hardest, this is when I’ve been taught to look for those “magic” things, the miracles (writing these down daily helps), or the small gratitudes. So, something as simple as getting sick -- something that happens to everyone -- I can see from a positive light. At first, I felt the stress about the work I would need to miss, or the rescheduled engagements and the planned events with family. But after taking a step back, I could see how when I got the flu, I had a team of people ready and willing to help and the perspective of gratitude, and the magic set in: colleagues stepped up quickly to take over important meetings, family and friends were available in loving force, and my kids were so enveloped in support they almost didn’t notice anything was different.
Yves Salomon-Fernández, Greenfield Community College, Pioneer Valley, Mass., USA
I am so grateful for my family. After a year of living apart, I cherish every meal that I get to cook for them and all of the small moments that I missed out on. I especially appreciate the laughter, joy and mischief that our children bring as well as the changes they are growing through. I’m grateful for many deep friendships, near and far. For the wonderful colleagues with whom I get to engage in meaningful work every day, I am grateful. Our students continue to inspire me. For that, I am equally grateful.
Mary Churchill and Meg Palladino
We are grateful for the writers and readers at “University of Venus,” for the listeners and guest experts at “The View From Venus,” and to our editors at Inside Higher Ed.