self-care tips

Prior to the pandemic, nonprofit professionals were often guilty of treating self-care as a low priority, with no thought for self-care tips. With many of us suddenly finding ourselves working from home earlier this year, additional challenges arose to taking care of oneself to be able to effectively serve others.

As we are likely to be working in remote or unusual situations for some time to come, how can we find ways to take care of our physical and mental health to survive the marathon of a pandemic and beyond? Here are seven self-care tips:

1. Set the scene: with so many of us working from home, it literally feels like we are living at the office! It is important to establish a space that when you enter it, you know you are entering the work zone, especially if you have other adults in the household also working remotely and/or children schooling remotely. Additionally, this will help you mentally and physically transition in and out of work mode, just like when we would arrive or depart at the office. It is not too late to find a space for you! If you have already carved your space out, what additional equipment (furniture, technology, supplies) would help you feel more productive and comfortable?

2. Set a schedule: Now that we are spending most of our waking hours without leaving our residence, the temptation is there to literally work around the clock. Communicating with your boss and colleagues to set expectations about work hours is critical to success for everyone. Juggling family responsibilities might mean breaking up your workday to answer messages and work on tasks early in the morning or late in the evening. If you are managing staff, ask your employees what you can do to be supportive, especially those jumping back into juggling school for children and work for you. And be sure to communicate these expectations back to those living at home with you as well. Having a start and end to work hours, even in shifts, can help reduce mental drain and physical exhaustion.

3. Tame technology: We are fortunate to live in a time where during a pandemic, we can continue to work, play, and stay connected to the world outside our home. However, that same connectivity can be exhausting! Take time to walk away from devices to recharge your mind, body, and soul. Also look into enabling tools built into technology (e.g. do not disturb hours on a smartphone) to force breaks when needed.

4. Socialize safely: The nonprofit community is highly social, and stay home orders have taken away opportunities for us to connect with colleagues and supporters. Especially for professionals who live alone, this can be isolating. Have you scheduled regular check-ins with family, friends, and colleagues? If you are in a mentor/mentee relationship, can you visit via video conference, or safely distance in person? The lack of physical opportunities can provide challenges to connection, but also can deepen bonds with those who we may not connect with as often if they live across the country or around the world.

5. Get moving: If you have a favorite fitness activity, how are you incorporating it into your home space and new schedule? Many options are available for streaming classes online — everything from yoga to dance can be found for free or for a small monthly fee. A very low-cost way to get a little activity into your day? Go for a walk! Even just moving for 10 minutes a day can do wonders for physical and mental health, and help you sleep better as well. Plus, you get that change of scenery, too!

6. Eat well: Staying home more means having more control over our nutrition; those days of endless meetings and events requiring meals away from home where the menu was not our choice are on hold! A beneficial habit which will carry over even when the pandemic is behind us is meal planning for the week. Think ahead and consider meals and snacks, then set aside time to prep them to reduce stress during the week. It’s also a great time to try out recipes or new foods you may not have had time for previously.

7. Give grace: A mantra often included in yoga practice is to give grace to others, and especially yourself. The past few months have affected each of us differently, and each day is a chance to practice the kindness and compassion our industry espouses. Ask for or offer forgiveness where you can.

Don’t feel like you need to accomplish all the above suggestions at once! Take on one at a time until you feel comfortable with the shift to greater self-care and soon, you’ll find yourself in a much better space to help serve your donors and clients.

What other self-care tips would you share?

Lisa M. Chmiola, M.S., CFRE
Lisa M. Chmiola, M.S., CFRE, has more than 18 years in philanthropic development experience. She has served in major and planned giving roles in education (public and private) and religious institutions, following initial career experience in event-based philanthropy. An AFP Master Trainer since 2014, Lisa has presented at four AFP International Conferences, and a variety of AFP and other industry association regional conferences, chapter meetings, and webinars. She also serves as an adjunct instructor in Rice University’s Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. As Chief Fablanthropist for Fablanthropy (the intersection of fabulous and philanthropy), she is available for consulting, training, and speaking opportunities. Lisa also is an active volunteer, serving on the board of the AFP New Orleans chapter and the U.S. Government Relations committee for AFP International, an incoming board member of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (and past president of the Houston chapter), a sustaining member of the Junior League, and a graduate of Leadership Houston. Additionally, she has co-authored several pieces for AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy magazine. Lisa is the proud mom of Ava, a Mini Schnauzer with her own social media presence (@avalynndog).
Lisa M. Chmiola, M.S., CFRE