Prioritizing Self-Care as a Nonprofit Professional | Charity Savant Blog

Last week, we published a list of 50 ways to take care of yourself about the self-care practices of nonprofit professionals. There’s so many diverse ways to practice self-care – from exercise, to creative pursuits, to taking some time to breath and let the world pass by.

As nonprofit professionals, it’s so imperative that we take care of ourselves. Quite often, we talk about how important self-care is – but how do you actually ensure that you get some quality self-care time in?

The problem is, it can often feel selfish to take time for ourselves. As much as we espouse its importance, in our day-to-day lives, self-care can seem like a luxury, not a necessity.

But as nonprofit professionals, self-care is especially critical to our wellbeing. The empathetic, caring work that we do can make us take the weight of the world on our shoulders and even experience vicarious trauma. Not to mention the added stress of being understaffed and under-resourced, meaning that we often work longer hours and are constantly pulled in many directions.

The reality is, self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. It can’t be something we do once a year on our annual vacation. And it can’t wait until we’re already burnt out for us to get around to it. We simply cannot give from an empty cup.

But how do we prioritize our own self-care? Here are some strategies to ensure that self-care doesn’t become an afterthought:

1. Schedule it

One of the simplest ways to make sure that you don’t let self-care fall by the wayside is to just schedule it. This could mean blocking off time in your calendar for self-care activities (like going to the gym or taking a bath) so that you don’t forget about them or get too busy. It could also mean booking some vacation or personal days that you’ll dedicate to taking care of you and relaxing.

I find it helpful to evaluate my calendar before I make any new commitment outside of work hours. I tend to look at my time in weeklong chunks to ensure there’s a balance, and I’m protective of my free time. I aim to have at least one or two evenings per week without commitments. If Tuesday is my only evening at home this week and I have work and social commitments every other night, then I am not booking anything on Tuesday evening.

I’ve learned that if I overbook myself, then I’ll never have time to practice my own self-care: preparing proper meals, going to the gym, and relaxing with my partner. And then I’m just stressed out and anxious the whole week, because I feel like I’m not taking care of myself! Be intentional about what you commit to outside of work hours.

This can also mean getting better at enforcing your own boundaries and learning when to say “no.”

2. Make it easy and accessible

If your self-care practices are all time- or resource-intensive, you’re less likely to integrate them into your daily and weekly routine. Sure, who doesn’t love a nice spa day? But who can afford one on a regular basis – especially working in nonprofit?

All-out “treat yo’ self” days are great splurges once in awhile, but to ensure self-care is a regular part of your life, smaller, more accessible self-care practices are important.

Self-care doesn’t always need to be expensive or a splurge. It could be small treats – like bringing flavoured coffee that feels “special” to work and savouring it over a ten-minute break. Or walking home from work once a week to move, get some fresh air, and enjoy a little bit of nature.

Doing self-care in small bursts whenever you can means you’ll reap the benefits more often – and it will be more sustainable.

3. Listen to your own needs

Quite often, what we call our self-care practices are actually not making us feel good. I can justify binge-watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black all weekend as “self-care” – but is it?

Maybe it is for you. But some of our go-to “self-care” practices can become less than caring – and in fact detrimental – if we don’t actually pay attention to how we’re really feeling.

If I’m exhausted, I might want to lay back and do something mindless for a little while. But I’ve learned to then listen to what my body and mind really need. It might be that half an hour of loafing is best followed by – not more loafing – but preparing a nice meal. Or going for a run. Or playing with my cat.

If you want to ensure you’re really taking care of yourself, stop and think about what would truly feel good and regenerative right now. That way, you’re ensuring your self-care practices are actually restorative and replenishing, not detrimental or depressing. And that makes us more likely to continue to cultivate a healthy self-care practice.

Self Care Day is coming up on Monday, July 24. In honour of this special day, we’re sharing self-care tips and resources throughout the month of July.

Sasha Elford

Co-Founder, Charity Savant

Sasha Elford is a volunteer manager, fundraiser, and communications professional who has many years of experience working with nonprofits, from the local to the national. As the brains behind Karma Careers, Sasha’s passion is developing and engaging human capital – volunteers and new talent – in the nonprofit sector.