Managing The Involvement Cycle
Class, study, work, chapter, meeting, event, study, repeat. In between those activities, I have to eat, sleep, shower, exercise, and spend time with people I care about. Sometimes called “the grind, hustle or struggle,” this demanding cycle of involvement is something I have gotten used to as a student-leader on campus. I, like many other multicultural Greeks or those from smaller chapters, am used to holding multiple positions, juggling time, and finding fascinating ways to stay grounded. It is easy for me to let myself dive into too much when I am passionate about what I do, especially as a student-leader of color.
For marginalized communities on campuses, leaders often take up multiple positions to fulfill the needs of chapters while taking on other leadership positions outside of their chapters. Our daily missions are ambitious, but vicious to our mental and physical health. Being overly involved leads to giving away time to serve others, while often neglecting yourself. Over the past three years, I have found these following tips to help me take care of myself while going through this strenuous cycle:
Put Your Grades First
You are a student-leader; emphasis on student first. During the first week of school, gather your syllabi, a planner of choice, and write down all your assignments, projects, and readings. If you are a procrastinator, like me, write down due dates one or two days before they are actually due. If you had to choose between turning in an assignment on time or going to a chapter event, pick the assignment. A good start beats struggling later on in the semester.
Take Some “Me-Time”
Time for yourself means time not working on school or organization work. Find something you love and do that instead. It can be as short as taking ten minutes or as long as a couple of hours. Cook, workout, play video games, or read, just do what makes you happy. Fit it into your schedule and make it happen.
After crossing, becoming an official member of an organization, it is quite normal to jump straight into large leadership roles and taking on more responsibilities to give back to the chapter. It is also easy to burn out from all the work throughout the semesters. In times where being burnt out hits you, take a step back and rediscover why you are here in the first place. Why do you care? What motivated you to take on the challenge? Sometimes it is simply remembering why you are proud of your letters. Sometimes it is looking at fraternity/sorority life with a newfound focus to better the community. Rediscover that and let it refuel your ambition to march on.
Think Big With Patience
It is more difficult to think with a “big picture” mentality if you come from smaller chapters or councils. Current worries tend to take precedence, making it hard to feel like greater achievement is attainable. This takes a hit on morale within individuals and organizations. Create a big picture. Where do you want your organization to be in two, five, and 10 years? Hold on to that vision. Now, what can you start doing to get there? Along the way, remind yourself, and others, that greatness takes time and dedication. Be patient with progress, allow learning from mistakes, and keep moving forward.
Lean On Others
My biggest secret to self-care is allowing others to care for me. Asking for help on anything can be hard when you want to set a good example of being a strong, independent leader. Unfortunately, that image is easily shattered when the pressure is high, the stress is too much, and being burnt out is real. I have been there, and it is a dark place to be. Thanks to the countless times when my sisters, advisor, friends and family have helped me, I came back ready to conquer whatever is next. Do not be afraid to ask for help from members or advisors. Do not believe that being vulnerable makes you weak. Asking for help is brave. When you reach out to others, it shows you want to be at your best to do your best. Lean on others, and let them help you like you help them.
Somewhere between the research paper you have to finish at midnight and the newest email you have to answer by 5 p.m., you need to remember to breathe deeply. Take a moment to appreciate these breaths. Sit back to appreciate the work you have done. Then, get back up to make possibilities reality. This experience is what you make of it. Not everyone has the exact same experience, but most of us understand the struggle of being too involved. As a student- leader of color, your work is paving the way for generations in marginalized communities to thrive. Tackle endeavors of every size, but do not forget to take a moment for yourself.