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Self-Care for Nonprofit Leaders

Are you starting your day at 6 AM, answering work emails from the comfort of your bed? Do you finish your day at 8 PM? We’ve all been there, including myself. What I’ve realized is that while I was serving clients, I wasn’t serving myself or my loved ones. I was in a place of just getting it done at the expense of preparing meals, going for walks, and having time away from work. As nonprofit leaders, we talk a lot about attracting new donors, engaging existing donors, and building a team, but we don’t talk much about self-care for nonprofit leaders. And we should be.

If you’re not caring for yourself, you can’t be expected to give your all to the organization. You need time away. Honestly, I’ve found a love for nature. Hiking and camping ease my mind, de-stresses me, and I return to work refreshed. I have new ideas, and solutions seem to come easier. That doesn’t happen if we’re burnt out.

Are you feeling burnt out? If you do not want to get out of bed, have apathy toward people and work, and are disinterested in life in general, it’s time for self-care. Taking a step back to see the bigger picture of your life. Re-evaluate what and who is most important. Return with a new plan and schedule that brings work and home into balance.

Self-Care for Nonprofit Leaders

In an issue of my newsletter, I wrote about how rest is non-negotiable. The more of a high achiever you are, the more rest needs to be part of your schedule. You can’t be effective if you’re tired and thinking about too many things simultaneously. The reality is that if we don’t stop and take care of ourselves, our bodies will shut us down. You don’t want illness to stop you. Instead, take time for self-care.

Set Boundaries.

When I speak to nonprofit leaders, I often hear them talking about long work hours, missed meals, and a general feeling of exhaustion. That is not what I want for you, and you shouldn’t want that for yourselves! It’s time to set boundaries.

  • Set work hours...and stick to them. Even if a board member emails in the evening, don’t answer until work hours. Communicate your hours to loved ones so they can schedule a time to see you when you’re free. Turn off work notifications outside work hours.

  • Plan. Whether you’re having a reset weekend, taking a few days away, or want to have meals ready to cook, you’ve got to take time and plan. Having events to look forward to will keep you focused during work hours. Book a weekend at my Park City, Utah condo and relax in the mountains!

  • Have fun. Build activities into your day that make you happy. Read more. Rest more. Watch more movies. Take more walks. Whatever makes you happy, do more of that.

Take a few days off.

Recently I rested and recharged for a few days in Oregon at a treehouse that was completely off-grid. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it is a perfect getaway for this nature-loving outdoor enthusiast. Find places that work for you. It doesn’t need to be in an off-grid treehouse. It can be in your city or town.

Get to know where you live over a few days. Pretend you’re a tourist and schedule a walking tour. Visit the shops you’ve always wanted to go to. Walk in a new park or take a book and read at a coffee shop. Whatever you enjoy, do more of that.

Plan a Reset Weekend

Reset weekends support you as an individual and your loved ones. My friends who shared this idea love being together as a couple while allowing personal time to plan and reflect. One day of the weekend, they reconnect as a couple by walking, grabbing brunch, and talking about their weeks. If they have a budget or travel planning, they can talk about it during this time. It’s meant as a time to connect.

The other day they reset the house by putting clean sheets on the bed, folding laundry, and planning meals. It gives them time to reconnect as a couple and have their home organized regularly. On other weekends they watch movies, make brunch at home, and spend time on their separate work. Reset weekends support having a clean home and healthy relationship with each other.

Ask for help.

If you’re having trouble getting everything done, whether it’s at work or home, hire people! Hiring a house cleaner for my home and an administrative assistant for work means I have more time to spend where I want. Some days it’s with loved ones, and others are for work.

If you do not stick to a plan, ask a loved one to be your accountability partner or hire one. They will require you to check in on your progress, recommend changes, and keep you on track until self-care becomes a habit. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help on your journey.

Reward yourself with time away so you can give more when you return to the office. Self-care for nonprofit leaders should be a requirement. We work too hard for others to forget about ourselves. As a recovering workaholic, I assure you the rewards of self-care are amazing!


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