During these past few months, we have seen hurricanes, earthquakes and senseless acts of violence impact our world. Many people have stepped up to help those affected. Of those helping, many are from nonprofits whose job it is to help individuals in need, everyday. To those working in the nonprofit arena, the mission of the work, more times than not, takes priority over taking care of themselves. Eventually, the stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet will all catch up with us and burnout will occur. It happens everyday.
Anyone who has boarded a plane has heard the instructions: if the air masks fall from the ceiling, place the mask on yourself before you help those around you. That echoes the spirit of what I want to share with others working in the nonprofit field. Take care of yourself first, so you will have the mental and physical ability to assist others and carry out the mission of your organization in which you believe in so strongly.
Throughout the course of several United Way conferences I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with Beth Kanter. Beth is a social media and self-care guru and best selling author of the book, “The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit – strategies for impact without burnout.” I felt her most recent book was very timely for what many are facing in the nonprofit world, therefore I invited her to be a guest on our United Way of Central Florida’s podcast, “Talk United.”
During the podcast, Beth outlined how someone could identify if they were burning out and what they can do about it. Here are the three steps she shared to get started:
- Take the nonprofit burnout assessment. This assessment can help you become aware of your stress symptoms and identify where you fall on the ‘Nonprofit Passion Continuum’: Passion Driven, Passion Waning, Passion Challenged or Passion Depleted.
- Find out what your reaction is to stress/burnout. Do you handle stress in a productive or destructive way? Would you be more apt to take a nap, go for a run, eat a pint of ice cream or have a shot of tequila. This exercise will help you become more self-aware about how you manage stress and stressful situations and help you identify bad habits you need to change.
- Create a ‘Self-Care’ plan. Your plan will help you identify personal self-care goals that will assist you in making positive changes to reduce stress and revitalize yourself. Self-care will need to become part of your work schedule and needs to become a commitment to yourself and a critical part of daily life.
I must admit the first time I read her book, I completely failed the test. I thought I was doing what was expected and giving 110% to my work, regardless what it might mean for my physical and mental state. I could tell I put on some weight, and my brain wasn’t clicking along as fast as it use to. This test opened my eyes and caused me to stop and revaluate. Here are a few tips from my personal ‘self-care’ plan, that you can start implementing today.
- Get rest. Make sure you are getting enough sleep (7 to 9 hours a night)
- Watch what you eat. It’s easy to swing into drive-thru, or grab a quick candy bar at your desk. Packing lunch and healthy snacks can go a long way in keeping your nutrition on track.
- Stay hydrated. Try to limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol that is consumed. Drink more water, and make an effort to drink more water in stressful times.
- Step away from work. Every few hours, spend ten to fifteen minutes away from your desk or project. Walk round and clear your head. This is a good time to walk outside and get fresh air.
- Make time for friends and family. It’s easy to stay focused on work and zone out everyone, but at the end of the day be sure to leave time for those most important to you.
- Unplug. When you get home, limit social media and find a place to leave your phone, so you will stay off Facebook and stop checking emails. Also, limit the amount to TV time and especially the constant coverage of stressful news stores.
I have found these are the steps that work best for me. Your challenge is to design a list that is personal to you so you can begin incorporating them into your everyday work and home life.
Please remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Some of these steps may seem easy, others many be a real stretch outside of your comfort zone. You can always partner with a friend or co-worker. Sometimes having an “Accountability Buddy” or an “Accountability Group” will help move you from self-care to we-care. You can support each other and offer encouragement and motivation throughout the process.
Whether you work for a nonprofit, or not, for some burnout can be too much. If you feel overwhelmed by work, stress from life, or just negative factors in the world and need to find someone to talk to, call United Way 2-1-1. The resources specialist will help connect you with the right person. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re not strong enough; it means you are strong enough to know sometimes you can’t do it alone.
If you want to hear more about what Beth had to share from her book, you can listen to our entire conversation by downloading our podcast on iTunes or Goggle Play. Click here.
To learn more about Beth you can visit her website at: BethKanter.com