Self-Care Tools and Tips

Self-Care Tools and Tips

While working in the non-profit sector allows us to get paid to support causes near and dear to us, we often do so under a lack of resources and support, less pay than contemporaries in other professions, long and thankless hours, and very little time to consider our own well-being and individual goals. Any of those things alone can cause us to experience this phenomenon we non-profit employees know called burnout. Self-care is when we intentionally set up boundaries and tactics to mitigate feelings of burnout.
In seeking to bring forth your best self to your work, you must create and prioritize space and time to recharge through intentional, quality self-care. This is fundamental to us helping our organizations meet their goals. While the application of self-care varies from person to person, I hope that below you might find some helpful tips to evaluate, practice, and prioritize self-care to guide you in enhancing your practice of this critical art of sustainability.
Determine you current priorities in life, and evaluate your need for change. Time is a resource we’ll never get back; so, think critically about how you are spending your time. What percentage of your time do you spend on relationships with family and friends? How much time do you devote to your spirituality, traditions, culture, customs, and intellectual pursuits? How much time are you devoting towards work (think about the time beyond work hours you spend working on assignments or thinking about work)? What, if any, time do you devote towards you?
Map out, table, or chart the distribution of your time. Then, evaluate the areas where you’d like to increase your time spent and the areas you’d like to devote less time towards. Acknowledging this is the first step towards selecting self-care practices that truly sustain you.
Know your self-care love language. I’ve recently become introduced to love languages (feel free to take the test: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/). While love languages focus primarily on romantic partnerships, it is helpful to consider the relationships we pursue with ourselves similarly. Test yourself, stop to think about the times you feel you’ve treated yourself well, and identify characteristics about those moments that you can replicate in your regular practice of self-care.
Was it quality time with friends or nature? How about the physical touch of a masseuse? And who doesn’t enjoy gifting themselves gifts through a little retail therapy from time to time? Find out what makes you feel loved and supported, and participate regularly in those acts. Once you understand more about the type of characteristics you respond well to, branch out to new practices of self-care that share some of those characteristics.
Mark your schedule for self-care. Treat self-care like a weekly one-on-one check-in with yourself, and do not skip out on it. It is as important as all the other, countless meetings you may find yourself in throughout the week. Additionally, most of our nonprofit sector jobs have their peaks and valleys when it comes to workload. When you can anticipate the high-intensity peak times, make sure you schedule in some necessary self-care time before, during, and after these occasions.
CC image courtesy of AlisaRyan via Flicker  CC image courtesy of AlisaRyan via Flicker
Group-care with others. I wrote about this in a previous blog for the Black Youth Project. You are not alone in this work. Building strong relationships is key to the work and your sustainability within it. The strongest act of self-care is opening yourself up to others and being transparent—be it with a group of friends, family, or a professional.
It doesn’t only take a village to get you from child to adult, but it also takes a village to sustain you. Group-care means that you are truly and actively sustaining yourself in the work; and, by engaging in group-care practices, you build up a wall of protection for challenging times that you alone cannot handle. Building people power makes for your own well-being. Talk to people, share your concerns and hopes with confidants, and speak truth to those around you that you can trust.
Reduce negative coping strategies. Self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice, so some things that may be negative coping strategies for you might be positive or neutral for others.  Simply think about your goals in self-care, and if a certain activity makes it more difficult for you to reach them, consider limiting the time you spend participating in it. Through my experience as a program manager of a national youth leadership development non-profit program, my effectiveness in my role increases depending on the quality of self-care I practice on a regular basis. I encourage you to continue the practices of self-care that work for you, try new ones, and firmly make self-care a priority in your life.  In doing so, the work will move forward more fluidly.
Andrew-HS-by-RonMarion Andrew Humphrey, Jr.  (@humphreymarion) currently serves as the Fellowship Program Manager at Young People For (YP4), a program with People For the American Way Foundation. Each year, YP4 supports 150 diverse young people across the country to effect sustainable social change in their communities. Andrew resides in Washington, DC, hails from Little Rock, AR, and is a 2010 graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina. After graduation, Andrew moved to Beijing, China and worked as a college counselor and SAT prep coach for Chinese natives seeking admission into the U.S. college system. In 2012, Andrew returned to North Carolina as a Deputy Field Organizer for Organizing for America, through which he continued his advocacy for inclusive, progressive policies, and institutions that honor the diversity and autonomy of our nation’s communities. He spends his time playing tennis, singing oldies at karaoke, and organizing with young community members in DC’s chapter of BYP100.

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