by Danielle Innocent, AmeriCorps member serving on the Wellington Management team with McKay K-8 School
For AmeriCorps members, finding a balance between service and the rest of one’s life can be a challenge. We spend long hours at service every day, and then many nights have even more work to bring home with us. Without finding a balance, service very quickly has the ability to drain you.
Maintaining a work/life balance is an ongoing process, and requires constant effort. I still haven’t found the perfect balance. However, below I have compiled a list of tips that I find helpful or that I have gathered from others, in an effort to spread the wealth. Keep these tips in mind, add your own to the list, and just remember: no one said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it!
1. Know when to call it quits for the night.
I’m definitely the type of person who hates leaving things on my to-do list, but I’ve needed to learn how to prioritize, and how to determine when I’m just too tired to work anymore. You will hit a point at night when any work done will not be done to the highest standards, and, in an organization where standards are high, working past this time will be detrimental to your work and to your mental health. Recognizing when you’re hitting your personal wall and knowing to stop working and get some sleep is absolutely crucial.
2. Force yourself to do what you want.
In a year during which almost all of your energy will be dedicated towards serving others, it is also imperative to remember to serve yourself. If you aren’t at your peak personally, you won’t be able to give as much to the students you serve. Finding something you absolutely love, and making sure you take the time to do it -- even for just an hour a day -- will dramatically improve your personal being, allowing you to be the best AmeriCorps member you can be. For me, self care comes in the simple form of reading a pleasure book every night (currently I’m on Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; I highly recommend it!). I’ve always been extremely fond of escaping into the world of fiction, though I haven’t made as much time for reading in the past few years as I’ve liked. This year of service with City Year doesn’t offer all that much time for reading, either, but I’ve been working on forcing myself to read whenever I get the chance. On the T, or a half hour before bed: whatever form my reading time comes in, it’s definitely a valuable way to let my mind think about things other than service for a while, and a way for me to do something I love.
3. Remind yourself why you do what you do.
There is no better motivator in the world than the students you work with. Whatever struggles we go through as AmeriCorps members, our students are likely going through just as much, if not more. Though our work is difficult, it is also some of the most important work we could be doing. Constantly reminding yourself in the hard times of the students you care for has, for me, been the best way to get through service. Everything I do, I do for my students. They deserve every ounce of energy I have, and I’ve found that, by keeping them in mind, I’m able to tap into all sorts of energy reserves, to keep performing at peak levels to best serve them.