As National Health Corps members, we all share a passion to help those most in need, and it is that passion that make us most vulnerable to burnout. According to Psychologist Richard Lazarus, burn-out is defined as “chronic events in which environmental demands, internal demands, or both exceed the adaptive resources of an individual.” If gone unchecked, burnout often leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. Because we AmeriCorps members are so passionate, we sometimes ignore these tell-tale signs.
As the Outreach Coordinator for the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, one of my roles is to enroll pregnant women and infants into Healthy Start services. I usually meet prospective Healthy start enrollees in the comforts of their home. I begin by asking how many weeks pregnant she is and then providing OBGYN information, but then the conversation shifts to more personal and sensitive topics such as feelings of depression. The one enrollment that stands out to me the most happened in the beginning of the service term. I visited a first time mother and her newly born baby boy. The conversation started like all other enrollments, but this mom was experiencing postpartum depression, depression that occurs after childbirth. We started to discuss some of the things that were going on in her life, such as lack of family support and feelings of loneliness. It became clear that this new mom simply needed a sympathetic ear: a confidante. Over the past 7 months as an AmeriCorps member, I have sympathized and listened to the stories and experiences of women: stories of abuse, depression, and sometimes, addiction. I am glad that I can provide these women with a form of relief, but often times after the enrollment is over I find myself carrying a piece of their story with me, pieces of good and pieces of bad. As an AmeriCorps member I strive to do the most good, to serve and to dedicate 1700 or more hours to underserved communities while living on a below minimum wage stipend, sometimes with or without support from family and friends. I continue to serve despite some of the above challenges. One thing that I have learned is that burnout can happen to the best of us and that it doesn't make me less of an AmeriCorps member, nor does it make me a bad person. It is, however, important to recognize it and to nip it in the bud when feelings of burnout arise. Below are a few techniques that I have utilized throughout this service term that current and prospective AmeriCorps members can practice when burnout develops:
1. Utilize your personal days and take them as needed.
2. Discuss feelings of burnout with friends/family or other individuals in your shoes. ex) other AmeriCorps members that may be experiencing the same feelings of burnout.
3. Practice self-care. It is easy to go home and de-stress in front of a television set especially after a long and stressful day of service, but exercising or making healthier nutritional choices can be just the thing that assists in alleviating burnout.
4. Remember why! Everyone applies to serve in AmeriCorps for different reasons; whatever that reason is, remember it and use it to propel you through your burnout phase.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Yasheika Allen.
Yasheika serves at the Northeast FL Healthy Start Coalition as a Outreach Coordinator.