By now, you’ve been through trainings and have graduated from BTA and BTR and are off to serve powerfully at your school site. During this time, you are working so hard tutoring and mentoring students that you may find it difficult to make time to keep yourself healthy and sane.
At least that was the position I found myself in when I served with City Year San Jose. During my time with City Year, I found it difficult to balance a healthy lifestyle with my service and ended up putting on some weight due to lack of exercise and poor dietary choices.
However, my roommate/best friend and former corps member Jarett Reid was also working very hard but also made it a priority to lead a healthy life. In fact, he looked better as the year went on because he took such great care of himself. As I think back about what Jarett and I did differently, here are a few things to keep in mind to keep you healthy and sane while serving a City Year:
Eating right especially when money is tight:
You are on a stipend, don’t get paid enough, and work most of the day so you may think the easiest way to fill your stomach is eating fast food. WRONG!
First, consider going on food stamps: your stipend is not considered income so you are eligible for full benefits (which in California is around 200 dollars a month).
Second, in reality, you save more money making your own meals than buying something from a dollar menu: try grocery shopping to buy yourself food for two or three weeks where you can eat five meals a day (breakfast, small snack, lunch, small snack, and dinner) and you will see that you’ll have more than you bargain for.
Lastly, make sure you think about quantity and quality: if you and your roommate(s) eat similar foods and can agree on getting a Costco card, do so and buy good and healthy food for the house.
Here are some other eating tips for Jarett Reid: “Eat something in the morning, drink water in the evening, watch sodium intake, try not to eat late at night, drink cranberry juice, and eat broccoli.”
Also, if you are legal age to consume alcohol (21+), limit your consumption: “…[C]onsider that alcohol has 7 calories per gram, almost twice that of protein and carbs, with no nutrient value (Elite Nutrition, Insanity).” This could take such a negative told your mind and body that it could affect your service.
Keeping your mind and soul sharp and ready:
Give your body and mind time to rest and fully charged by taking the time to actually sleep. Also, allow yourself time to read a book, express yourself through writing, music, painting, talking with family and friends, etc.
Lose yourself in the service of others, but also keep in mind NOT to lose yourself entirely. In other words, when service is over, give time to yourself and enjoy the positive things you’ve always love to do; you have to take care of yourself before you take care of others.
Wear your uniform proudly and comfortably
As you start wearing your uniform, make sure to take the time to look professional and clean. At the same time, make sure you are comfortable in it, especially when wearing the boots. There are many suggestions on how to take care of your feet when wearing the boots, but Jarett Reid suggests wearing thick black or white socks.
Also, the insoles might be too uncomfortable to some, if not most people. Buy softer or gel insoles from a shoe store. As silly as it seems, the way you are on your feet can totally change and effect your attitude and service throughout the day.
Staying active, staying fit
You may have most days where you work 9-10 hours so you may be too tired to exercise. Try this for size: exercise while serving! You are working with students and may have recess time with your students during the day and during Starfish Program.
Just because the students can run around having fun playing structured games don’t mean you can’t either. Play soccer, run a relay game, jump rope, push-up contests, whatever! Participate because it’s good for you and your students.
During the days you do have time, walk 30-60 minutes, go to a gym, or play basketball with us during “Sunday Ballin.” As a part of a healthy lifestyle, adults are to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
Of course, all of these are suggestions and everyone is different and everyone’s bodies and minds react differently to certain things. Some of this is what worked for Jarret during his City Year and for me post City Year.
If you have trouble figuring what’s best for you to keep healthy and sane, seek out a mentor, do some research, and keep a good support system around to motivate you.
I, Jeff Tibayan, can be that mentor. If you need advice or help in any of the following, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. I love the work that you do and support you give to our community. I value you and your commitment and want to help in any way possible. In the name of service and staying healthy and sane, cheers!
-Jeff V. Tibayan, CYSJ ’06-‘09