When I look at this picture, I see a woman who is committing a difficult task: balance. I feel this way everyday. This semester I am taking 16 credit hours, completing a required 250 hour internship, and doing all of the readings, projects, and assignments that come along with those classes. That’s just my responsibilities for school. Let’s add on being the Master’s Tri-Chair for the Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC), being an Admissions Ambassador (which gives me the great opportunity to write these blogs!), being a Communications Fellow, attending office hours, listening to speakers, attending debates, and all of the other amazing opportunities that this Harvard education provides. This does not include eating, sleeping, and maintaining a social life with my friends and family that are both here in Cambridge and in other areas of the country.
How do I balance all of my responsibilities and still have time for me? I plan EVERYTHING. It is simple in theory, yet requires a great amount of discipline to follow. In the few months that I have been here, many people have told me that I am very efficient. I never realized this characteristic before being here, but I am glad this strength decided to show up during this time!
Here are a few ways I maintain sanity while everything continues to move around me:
1. Plan to have a calendar.
I know I already said this but it is important. At the beginning of the semester (or anytime really, you could even start now!) go through all of your syllabi and write down the due dates for all of your assignments on a calendar that you can access on any device (Google Calendar, iCalendar, etc.).
2. Plan your breaks!
I am a firm believer in work hard, play hard. If you spend time putting all of your assignments on the calendar it can be discouraging. So in order to make yourself feel better, find one weekend a month to take a break from work. I only encourage one weekend, however if you need more time for yourself, then take it! I always find little moments here and there for me. But scheduled weekends cannot be touched by work. Sometimes you just have to be selfish for your own well-being.
3. Plan when you are going to actually do the work!
Now that you are encouraged by your scheduled breaks, go back to your calendar and set dates to complete the assignments. For example, if I know that my paper is due Thursday, I am going to schedule time before Thursday to actually work on that paper. This decreases stress because you aren’t working up until the last minute on an assignment. I know this is an idea that may seem unrealistic to those procrastinators out there. Well, guess what? I am a procrastinator too! But because I value my scheduled weekend break so much, I am motivated to stay on schedule so that I can still take my break. I also live by my calendar these days. I used to always use a “mental” calendar, but having all of my obligations in one location is everything and helps keep me sane!
4. Do things that make you happy!
This is so simple, yet can be so hard. Pamper yourself! If this means you have to rearrange your budget to get your nails and hair done, then that is just a sacrifice that is worth taking. If you need time to work out twice in a day, then make time for it. The things that I used to do to make myself happy are different now that I am back in school, in a different environment, and surrounded by different people. It took some time to rediscover this for myself but I am glad that I did. I personally enjoy lighting candles and binge watching something on Netflix or spending hours catching up with all of my friends.
5. Be aware of your mental health, it’s important!
A lot of people don’t take mental health seriously. I do! I am a firm believer that it is ok to seek help! The type of help may look different for individuals (some may go to friends, some need time with their pets, others to therapists, or even a mixture of all!), but either way you have to invest in yourself. Sometimes speaking and having someone listen can drastically change your perspective on life. Transitioning to being back in school is difficult. It is ok to feel challenged during the transition back to being a student again. It is NOT ok to suffer in silence by yourself. There are plenty of people who are willing to help. Help comes from your personal support system, your new friends and classmates who are probably feeling the same way, faculty and staff, and of course Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Services. The Counseling and Mental Health Office even have animal therapy. Although I have never tried it, I think it would be pretty cool to play with a therapy dog one day. I know that would definitely be a happy place for me!
Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.