Service and Self-Care

Love more, stress less!

Through my national service, I’ve learned that service is more than the day-to-day of what your site asks for. Service is building relationships, increasing morale, and creating a legacy; it’s  learning more about yourself.

(Picture from healthpsychtam.com)

As AmeriCorps Leaders, we try our best to make the most positive impact on our host sites and on the people we serve through them. We spend time training and learning how to provide for our communities but it’s important to not let ourselves get burnt out.
At my site, the faculty and staff periodically host socials where we can check in with one another and try to have a sense of humor when construction at school gets disruptive. Just the other day, the Missoula Alliance Church came to one of these socials and gave us all free lattes to help keep our energy levels up as we engage with middle schoolers. It’s the little things that help us ground ourselves amidst hectic times. 
Other than free lattes, I have a few tactics I use to assist me in maintaining my mental health:

1. Practicing gratitude and meditation
This has aided me in my ability to help myself when I’m alone at my site. Breaths are like little love notes to your body so letting yourself breathe is a good start to your self-care routine. The same goes for gratitude, reminding yourself why you are here, how you got here, and what good you have in your life can make a bad day more manageable. There is so much to be grateful for!

2. If you are an outdoorsy person like me, hiking can create healing: 
I go on hikes when I’m not serving to help me relax. Hiking allows me to exercise, access more companionship, and take in good ole’ Vitamin D. It provides a space where I can just let nature nurture me.

3. Write down what you feel
: In AmeriCorps (especially as leaders) we are encouraged to journal about our experiences. This can be quite cathartic. It gets our thoughts and our struggles out of our heads and onto paper making everything much more manageable.

4. Reach out: 
You are never alone so please don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you in an appropriate manner (do have boundaries for yourself and respect people’s limits). It can be hard to start service and not have a big social circle right away. I’ve found that joining MeetUp groups and talking to other leaders can be great ways to start building friendships.

5. Remember, everyone is different:
 It’s okay if none of these techniques work for you, just remember that your mental health matters! Not only is it incredibly challenging to help others without helping yourself, but your physical health can actually start to deteriorate when your mental health is poor. Stress weakens your immune system, so finding ways to achieve both basic and luxurious self-care is super vital for your service work and personal life.
Think of fulfilling your needs like a pie:
Each time you eat one piece of it (or fulfill one part of it), you get to have another piece. Needs-fulfillment pie is possibly even better than regular pie (stay with me here) because when you finish it, you feel rejuvenated instead of lethargic and too full to move. In my experience, as long as you have a balance with your service work and your self-improvement work, you’ll never be too full; rather, whole.
Here are some resources that have helped me and maybe they can help you! I’m mental health first aid certified and I want share things I actually use/listen to/read regularly:
And as always call: 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741, and look up resources in your area with this link: https://twloha.com/find-help/. You are loved, valued, and never alone. I hope this article helps you or someone 

PS. I originally posted this on Montana Campus Compact’s website and it helped a lot of people so I thought that it would be fitting for my first post here !!

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