Celebrate You and Avoid Nonprofit Burnout
By: Melissa Lagowski
Founder, CEO and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
This month we are celebrating YOU!
We want to turn our focus to the people who power the nonprofit world. In our opinion, you are a superhero of a special kind – generally working long hours, juggling tasks while simultaneously balancing boards, budget and strategy, all the while working to advance the mission of your organization. Many of you must wear multiple hats, stretching yourself to do things that aren’t your forte for the sake of the nonprofit that you manage. You are constantly focused on helping others, but it is so important to remember to also take care of you.
It’s no wonder that nonprofit staff members often get burned out. Between staff and volunteers, committees and newsletters, donors and dollars, you probably feel like you are on a moving balance beam! But what are you doing to take care of you?
It is important to remember that you need to take care of you in order to be a better leader. Stepping away to make time for yourself doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you a better person and a better leader.
In my past lifetimes as an executive director, I used to think that if I just worked a few more hours, I would finally get caught up. But in reality, I was lost in the never-ending barrage of tasks on the never-ending to-do list. The reality is that it is the self-care and the occasional stepping away that helps you keep perspective, hold your sanity intact and find creative solutions to problems.
Try any combination of these six simple but effective activities to take care of yourself:
- Time Alone: We all need time to clear our heads, disconnect from technology, and frankly, just time to hear our own thoughts in this “noisy” world that we live in. Meditation, journaling or even taking a walk for five or ten minutes can really make a difference both mentally and physically. Give yourself permission to try different things and find what works best for you.
- Celebrate Your Wins: Life seems to move at the speed of light (aka “the speed of life”) these days so we are always rushing to the next item on our never-ending list, but it is important to take a pause and celebrate the victories in your daily living. Studies actually show that when you achieve a “win,” your body gets a boost of positive energy. So take the time to check things off of your list and recognize these small goals and accomplishments, and try to reward yourself with something special on the larger wins.
- Exercising: You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a Zumba pro or a gym bro, but exercise does the body (and the brain) good. Period. Take time to walk, jog, work out, bike or swim. Exercise awakens all of your senses, gets the blood pumping and helps you sleep better at night, so make the time to fit in some type of exercise regularly. Exclamation point.
- Eating Right: Ever hear “garbage in, garbage out?” When we get rushed, it is natural to think less about our eating habits. Sometimes we skip meals, or we grab whatever is near us which often means too many stops at the candy dish. Surround yourself with healthy snacks that you can grab on the run when you need to. Fruit, nuts and protein bars are a few options that are easy to keep in your desk drawer or your car console. And be sure to drink plenty of water.
- Sleep: Nonprofit team members often burn the candle at both ends with late nights and early mornings. Countless studies prove that a good night’s rest helps alleviate stress (and a host of other health-related issues), and allows you to tackle your days with more energy. Sleep experts also recommend that you set a sleep routine so that you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day.
- Make Time for What You Love: Maybe more importantly than any other item, you must feed your soul. Find the things that you love to do (cooking, concerts, travel, reading, art, dancing, etc.) and make time to do those activities regularly. It is in doing the things that we love that we truly feed our soul and renew our energy for the important work that we do.
It may seem counterintuitive that stepping away from the work will actually strengthen your abilities and improve productivity, but these activities will help keep your head clear and your energy levels up. By making time to take care of yourself, you can actually reclaim your focus and get more done in a shorter amount of time.
So this month, we are celebrating YOU. And we want YOU to celebrate YOU, so we hope that you will implement these steps and commit to doing something special to reward yourself for the way that you are contributing to the world on a daily basis.