Today’s blog is written by Louise Fagan of The Principal Collective, who has been supporting the Mary Black Foundation on a number of projects, including our most recent around self-care.
Self-Care for Nonprofit and Social Service Professionals
The Mary Black Foundation recognizes that people who work in nonprofits and social service agencies face a range of unique challenges and stressors. Whether it is supporting clients through the devastating effects of chronic diseases or working with vulnerable populations experiencing trauma or violence, many people working in nonprofits carry the emotional burden of their work after the day is done. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘cost of caring’ and leads to burnout and compassion fatigue. With the uncertainty of the current crisis, the pressure of assisting those who may not have the resources to navigate these new circumstances adds stress to many who are already working at capacity.
How do Nonprofit and Social Service Professionals Avoid Compassion Fatigue?
Self-care practices include the small, day to day moments we devote to our personal well-being. The positive effect is incremental, based on the daily attention we pay to our mind, body, and spirit. Self-care is personal and guided by our own needs and individual preferences. The overwhelming effects of stress may be similar across the sector, but your self-care plan is unique to you.
Finding time for self-care, when every day presents new unexpected challenges, can seem unrealistic. But not acknowledging the signs of stress, especially when repeatedly exposed to it, can lead to further stress, exhaustion, insomnia, feelings of anxiety, and poor health. Fortunately, you can make a difference in your physical and mental health with just a few minutes each day. What you do each day can vary, but the key is to focus on you, even for a short amount of time, every day.
The first step to self-care is to be compassionate with yourself. Turn some of that wonderful care and attention you give to our community to yourself. Devote 10 – 15 minutes every day. You may feel this is impossible or that it is selfish, but we know that giving mindful attention to our own needs, allows us to remain more centered and effective in all aspects of our lives.
Setting boundaries may be the most important aspect of self-care. When you devote 15 minutes of your day solely to your own needs, make sure that time is protected with the same importance and respect that you give your work and those who you serve. Turn off your phone and computer, avoid distractions, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door, and set a timer. Some examples of things to do during your self-care time include sitting in silent contemplation, meditation, or focusing on a pleasant experience or memory. Perhaps you prefer to step outside to enjoy a short walk and some deep breathing. It is also a good time to stretch or practice yoga. Maybe you want to read a chapter of a book or even savor a brief nap. Carving 15 minutes out of every day for just you can have a noticeable impact on your personal well-being. Remember, there are no goals to be attained in this time; it is about being good to yourself in a way that offers renewal and rejuvenation.
Join Us for a Caring Conversation!
The Mary Black Foundation was poised to launch a monthly Self-Care Day Retreat specifically for nonprofit and social service professionals, which is being postponed until it is safe to return to in-person gatherings. Until then, we are going virtual! On Friday, May 1 at 11:00 am, we will facilitate our first virtual Caring Conversation for nonprofit and social service professionals. Join your friends and
colleagues to share in some stress relief activities and be reminded that we are here for each other. Stay for the full hour or drop in as you can, the time is yours. Registration is required; click HERE. You will receive a link to join the Caring Conversation after registering.