Back to Basics: Self-Care for Caregivers in the Sector
Barely a day goes by when I don’t contact a friend in the nonprofit sector. I always ask how their organization is, but just as important a question is: How are they?
I meet some of the most driven and kind-hearted individuals in this industry, but all too often they look out for everyone else before looking out for themselves.
Self-care used to be something you needed a camper van and a guitar to take seriously. These days we’re aware of its vital importance and how crucial it is to have a happy and healthy workforce, from top to bottom.
So here’s a timely reminder of what looking out for yourself looks like when your job is looking out for others. Here are my 8 self-care tips:
1. Be Active
Psychological and physical well-being are two sides of the same coin. Your stress levels are proven to reduce through exercise. Even a simple walk outside for half an hour can reset the day and give you the break you need to take in your problems with a clear head. The hard part is doing it. When was the last time you trained? Could you work out a routine and stick to it?
2. Take Control
So many of our fears, whether in approaching new board members, donation levels, or the success of events, can be overcome through action. To act is to begin to solve and resolve. Simply getting on with it makes a huge difference to how you feel about any problem. Often our stress and worries on both a professional and personal level really aren’t the problem that’s not being solved; it’s the lack of constructive action to begin solving it.
3. Connect With People
Sometimes it’s unavoidable that we have to choose the office over the people we love and would rather be with. The key is to make sure that it’s a balance. When you neglect your social structures, you worry about it, which then causes more stress and resentment at your work, in turn lowering your productivity. It’s a cycle which is hard to break.
Brits and Americans work longer hours than our French or Spanish neighbors, but according to multiple studies on GDP, the continental European workers’ productivity is just as high. The answer may be that they have prioritized a work/home balance, whereas the Anglo-Saxon nations have more of a “work till you drop” mentality.
More office hours don’t mean more work done. More time with your friends and family can actually make your work hours more productive.
4. Have Some More “Me” Time
Have your own recharge time set aside. This could be as simple as listening to music in the car, watching a regular TV series, reading a book, doing a hobby, having a pamper treat, or spending an hour with candles and a hot bath. Anything which constitutes time to center yourself is super helpful in keeping that all important balance.
Even if it’s just one or two evenings a week, put it in the calendar and make it a priority. It’s something we all know, but not something we all do!
5. Challenge Yourself to a Super Goal
Take on the idea of a big goal outside of work. This could be taking a new course, learning to speak French, starting a new passion project, or accomplishing a life-long goal like completing a marathon, a bike ride, or a skydive.
They act like shields against stress. All the other parts of our lives fall into line behind them. Plus, the achievements stay with you, providing long-term self-esteem and confidence. Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, sharpens up your motivation and gives you drive and a greater sense of self worth.
6. Avoid Unhealthy Habits
It’s tempting to seek short-term fixes: the bad diet, an over reliance on alcohol, cigarettes, or even just coffee. It’s something called avoidance behavior: short-term fixes which create long-term problems.
It’s a hard square to circle. We need a social life and ways of letting off steam, but these “crutches” can come with long-term negative side effects. We can be the best version of ourselves without other substances.
7. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Prioritize
Make a list of jobs in order of importance and then work your way through them. We’re all guilty of losing perspective, giving too much of our energy to issues which are either not worth the aggravation or should be way down on our to-do list. So keep perspective: Make sure your hours are given to your priorities.
8. Accept the Things We Can’t Change
There are always going to be a portion of life’s events and business outcomes that you can’t change. Try not to ruminate. Simply ask: Is it something you can influence? If not, then it’s not a bad idea to let it go.
Be a little more Zen. It’s amazing that when those issues in the workplace surface and you take control of them, the things that a few moments before seemed like frustration actually become new opportunities to learn from.
Finally, Make Sure the Way You See the World Remains Positive.
It’s been a very cold spring, but it’s also been a very sunny one. Either we focus on the positive sunlight or the negative temperature. It’s a choice we make every time we open our mouths.
We all need to pay attention to what we say and think. The frame will affect everything; our outlook makes our days ping. Others will feel what we feel when around us. Practice this and it will make a huge difference.
Self-care can be as little as taking a few minutes a day to take care of yourself; the key is to accept that it’s necessary. How any nonprofit runs depends greatly on how its staff are running. Ultimately it’s an engine and it needs a lot of TLC to keep it running smoothly.
Nick Wood is a writer and publisher in the nonprofit sector, with over a decade of experience working in Charity industry expansion in the UK and further afield. He is the creator of the Light-on-light project which showcases the stories of individuals who have made a positive impact on the world, and is frequently published in print, online, TV and Radio. You can contact Nick at [email protected].