“Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.”
That catchy little upsale slogan was on a dessert menu at a restaurant I visited over the weekend. I instantly identified with it as this is by far the busiest time of the year for most of the staff here at United Way of the Greater Triangle. When the economy tightens, nonprofits are forced to do far more with far less to meet the community needs. This means nonprofit staffers often take on two, three, or more roles within their organization to keep the services running, the support in place, and the clients getting what they need.
Telling a nonprofit worker how to avoid stress is sort of like trying to teach your refrigerator how to play basketball – its an impossible task. We’re all stressed, almost all of the time. The unrealistic deadlines, the underfunded programs, the lack of staff, the constant fundraising, and the burning desire to change the world (or at least the Triangle) can be a breakdown or burnout waiting to happen.
However, there are some simple tips that could be applied to your life that may not eliminate the stress, but it sure will make it easier to get the passion back that originally attracted you to the job. The items below are excerpts from one of my favorite blogger’s recent posts, “Pay Yourself First.” At a glance, the title sounds a little selfish, especially for the nonprofit worker who always thinks “you before me.” But, a nonprofit worker who can avoid burnout or a breakdown can serve the community for far longer than the super intense one who flames out after a year on the job. This line of thinking, while in the short term seems selfish, in the long term benefits the clients of the nonprofit for many years to come.
Chris Brogan writes:
- Get as close to 8 hours of sleep a night as you can.
- Schedule “do not disturb” time with your family as often as possible.
- Weigh every business opportunity against your change in quality of life.
- Ask for what you’re worth, so you can work the right number of hours for respectable pay.
- Work your core projects first over all external projects.
- Weigh the negatives and positives of any trip you might be asked to take. Decide accordingly.
- Realize that physical fitness boosts mental fitness and make it a priority, not a nice-to-have.
- Listen for warning signs (your body tells you when you’re messing with its parameters).
- Cut out junk: food, hours, consumption, entertainment. Your mind and body deserve the best.
- Audit how you’re spending your time and validate whether it’s working for you.
- Get out into nature once every two days at least. Nature is that other window with the higher resolution.
While Chris’s list doesn’t specifically target nonprofit workers, I think a lot of these bullet points would apply in our situation. You might read this list and say there is no way I can make all those changes in my daily life. “All my projects are core projects” or ”I can’t take any do not disturb time with my family” are perfectly natural reactions to this list. But, I would be willing to bet a nonprofit worker who implements just 3-5 of these recommendations will quickly see the results and can avoid the dreaded nonprofit burnout. I challenge anyone to adopt these tenets with me, and report back in a month. I’d love to hear if they helped your situation.