Self-care Tips for Nonprofit Workers (Part 1)

Self-care Tips for Nonprofit Workers (Part 1)

Working for a nonprofit organization, especially one that deals with compassionate service and disadvantaged persons, can present certain challenges

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Self-care Tips for Nonprofit Workers (Part 1)

Self-care Tips for Nonprofit Workers (Part 1)

As we’ve discussed in past articles, working for a nonprofit organization, especially one that deals with compassionate service and disadvantaged persons, can present certain challenges. Long hours, burn-out, and a lack of separation between work and home life are very common complaints heard from those who work at nonprofits.

Secondary trauma, which is a condition in which a service provider suffers negative consequences from secondary contact with trauma, is another serious risk of working at a nonprofit organization.

Even though nonprofits suffer from employee turnover at rates much greater than their private, for-profit counterparts, some people are deeply committed to working for nonprofits despite the challenges and difficulties. Some nonprofit workers think of their job as a cause and even a lifestyle.

This article is directed mainly at such people.

In this article, which is the first of two parts, we will discuss self-care, why it’s important, and how to have the right attitude toward it. In the second part of the discussion, we’ll talk about specific activities that you might implement into a self-care routine. But first, let’s define the concept and discuss some good ways to think about self-care.

What is self-care? There are probably as many definitions of self-care as there are people who need it. Some think that self-care is merely time away from work or stressful life situations. Others consider it something you do when you’re fed up with work (e.g., “I’m taking a day off for self-care!”).

However, most mental health professionals consider self-care something that can be and should be taken more seriously, and much more rigorously structured. For the purposes of this discussion, we will use a definition furnished by Bird, a business coaching firm that specializes in nonprofit operations and personnel.

Their definition of self-care is: establishing and prioritizing a routine of self-support that promotes better health and wellbeing and leads to more creativity, improved productivity, and stronger relationships.

So, knowing what self-care is, it’s also important to understand what self-care is not. Self-care is not just something you do to “recharge” or “rest.” Rest and recharging are certainly important, especially for employees who are at risk of exhaustion (professional and physical) and burn-out. That is why self-care involves working on your health in ways similar to the care you receive from a medical doctor or mental health professional. Self-care should have the capability to (1) prevent the negative effects of a stressful or high-intensity work environment, (2) alleviate or repair harm to your physical and emotional wellbeing, and (3) contribute to the ongoing wellbeing and improvement of your physical and emotional health.

Self-care should also not be ignored until there is a crisis. It’s not a cop-out or an escape hatch. You don’t apply self-care only when you’re completely exhausted or at your wit’s end. Self-care should be implemented as an important life routine that occurs no matter how you happen to be feeling. Self-care can surely help you through a rough spot or when you’re feeling drained, but it can also be especially gratifying when you are feeling happy, engaged, and energized. Like an exercise routine, self-care should be a prioritized routine that changes and adapts to your needs.

This implies that self-care activities take priority over all but the most urgent life needs. Your friends, family members, and coworkers should be informed that you have set aside certain regularly scheduled interludes that are not to be interrupted, deprioritized, or trivialized. This is one of self-care’s most important aspects–regardless of the self-care activities, the regular schedule, routines, and prioritization can anchor you during periods of frustration and uncertainty, and help you think of yourself as important.

With this attitude toward self-care in place, we can now turn to specific suggestions of what to do for self-care and when to do them. That will be the subject of the second part of this article.