Self-Care for Nonprofits: Confronting the Buzz Word

Self-Care for Nonprofits: Confronting the Buzz Word

Self-care: the buzz word that makes you squeal or jump for joy depending on your personality. I’d like to ensure that while self care can include a green juice or treating yourself to that delicious cupcake, neither the juice nor the cupcake will elevate your resilience in the workplace.

I’d like to take a step back and talk about what self-care really is at its core: it’s about building good habits that keep us sane, so that when conflict runs astray, we can stand strong on our own two feet and handle the issue at hand.

This type of self care (or better yet work-life balance) is important in any field, but I’d like to focus on nonprofit professionals. Why is that? Nonprofit folks are in the business of helping others, right? For many, this entails prioritizing beneficiaries’ needs over one’s own. It means carrying the burden and trauma of others on one’s shoulders. It means feeling responsible for bettering the situation of someone who is in dire need of support.

Nonprofit burnout is real. Unfortunately many nonprofit professionals find themselves bouncing back and forth between the nonprofit and business sectors because they lost their ability to escape a downward spiral of exhaustion, stress, and sometimes, guilt.

We all know that putting your own air mask on before helping your child is the way to go in case of emergency. It’s no surprise that we can’t help our beneficiaries to the best of our ability if we don’t have our air masks on tight. What does that mean exactly? We’ve got to take charge of making ourselves feel good – feel relaxed and ready for the hustle – in whatever form that means for each person.

We can look at five realms of life to guide us in our well-being and personal growth. You’ve got your health, your relationships, your personal development, your faith/spirituality, and your recreation time. If you can find a way to feed each of these five areas at least one time a week, developing realistic and sustainable habits, your odds of finding grounding and balance will be much higher. Let’s take a look:

Health. I’ll never be the one to tell you how to take care of yourself, but listen to your body and know what feels good. Whether that’s exercise, a particular nutrition plan, lots of rest, getting outside, do it!  Our health is not only physical but also emotional and mental, and each part is equally as important as the next.

Relationships. From partners to children to parents and friends, these relationships need to be nurtured. Often times our loved ones get the short end of the stick when we’re stressed or watch us crash and burn the instant we get home. Giving your loved ones face-to-face time is good for everyone, but even if you don’t have time to make plans, pick up the phone onto your way into the office and let your people know you love them.

Personal Development. Here I’d say just keep learning. Whether that means learning about deep sea fishing, the latest strategy in the field, or a new language, feeding our brains will always make us feel better. Easier said than done when you’ve got so much on your plate, but if you can find 20 minutes in the day to read, take an e-course (find tons of affordable options on sites like Udemy), participate in a mastermind, or follow a leading youtuber, do it! Put these activities in your planner and stick to them.

Faith & Spirituality. Whatever gives the world meaning deserves your time and attention. Nurture your soul by connecting to the greater good. Read a script, practice meditation (apps like Calm are a great place to start) or yoga (check out this at-home video series), volunteer with a church or cause of your choice (find a new volunteer opportunity).

Recreation. Last but not least, have fun for goodness sake! Get outside, go to a game or concert, have your friends over, dance until the sun comes up, Netflix and chill… Do whatever makes you happy and brings you positive energy. The more laughter, the better your odds of soothing out that burn out you’ve got building up.

Over the next few posts we will take a look at self-care and get down to the core of it. Perhaps you aren’t quite ready to build up these habits yet. Perhaps you’re better off starting out at the core of where your stress is coming from – what is draining your energy? What can you take off your plate? How can you learn to start saying no? What work habits can help you clear your mind and not leave the office so exhausted?

Stay tuned, we’ve got some balancing to do.

Looking for extra tips in the meantime? Check out these articles to get some inspiration or see where self care fits into your mission.