Great Lakes

5 Strategies for Surviving Spring Stress

March 2, 2017
A woman wearing business attire.

How Has Stress Changed?

The Journal of Student Financial Aid published a study by Krug and Levy 28 years ago that listed several stressors commonly named by financial aid workers. Amazingly enough, you may find you can relate to a few of them today:

  • Not having sufficient time with each student or to accomplish tasks with the quality of work you would like
  • Applying regulations that conflict with one another, or explaining a regulation that seems unfair to a student
  • Feeling conflicted between wanting to help a student and impartially applying a regulation
  • Sharing bad news with a student and/or handling upset parents
  • Being subjected to pressure from outside the office—for example, from an administrator, athletic coach, or faculty member

What are your biggest stressors in 2017? Email them to

For the financial aid office, spring brings extra stress along with nicer weather. Now is the time to pull out all your best stress-busting strategies.

  1. Get away. While a vacation may not be possible, step away from your desk and take a short walk, or go outside and enjoy fresh air. Within your day, finding a change of scenery can lend a fresh perspective to problems when you return to your desk. If you're working extended days, plan to flex time so you can make it to other life commitments such as a child's school program or your book club. Productivity suffers when you give everything to work.
  2. Use a to-do list. Having a realistic list helps you ensure critical tasks aren't forgotten, and helps focus your overtaxed brain. If you prefer electronic task management, consider using a free app such as Wunderlist, which allows you to break down your task list by category, and then by day and week. If you're a visual person, plot your day's tasks on a Covey time management matrix using sticky notes on a white board to ensure you're getting necessary tasks done first. At day's end, update your matrix so your path is clear when you come in the next day. It's satisfying to check things off as you complete them, and it lets you see how much you accomplish.
  3. Find effective help. Consider hiring help. Choose from recent financial aid employees who may be interested in part-time work, such as recent retirees or those who just began parenting or returned to school. When hiring work-study students, find freshmen and provide lots of positive reinforcement to make it tempting for them to stick around. You'll reduce the amount of time you spend on training, and provide them with more opportunities to make a difference in your office's productivity over the years. Many financial aid professionals began their careers as work-study students.
  4. Get organized. Members of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) can log in to the Policies & Procedures Builder and use an online template to create a policies and procedures manual for your office. NASFAA also offers a Compliance Engine with checklists to ensure your school's compliance with federal laws and regulations. Tools like these can help your office work smarter, faster, and with more confidence.
  5. Remember basic self-care. Get rest. Stay hydrated for productive functioning, and make sure you take at least a few minutes for lunch. It's a great idea to have a supply of energy-sustaining quick snacks at your office so that you can easily grab something between meetings or tasks. For an easier time falling asleep at night, make sure you get at least a little physical exercise or a short walk during the day, and take a break from electronics at least one or two hours before bed.

Extra Help with Unpleasant Situations

Problem-solving is a major part of your job as a financial aid professional, so it's easy to see why your brain may be tuned into challenges. The student you're helping now will be happy to leave with a solution. To help you see how to turn challenges into successes, check out our free SmartSessions™ webinar, Handling Unpleasant Situations: Techniques to Turn the Bad into Good.

For More Information

Want more ideas? Great Lakes has resources designed to ease your workload and reduce stress. Contact your Great Lakes representative or our Client Services team. We've created easy-to-use loan servicing resources; effective default management tools, resources, and reports; and private loan processing tools that simplify your work life—because we understand the challenges you face.



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