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This Valentine’s Day, Take Care of Yourself First

As young professionals, it's in our nature to constantly push ourselves to achieve. Working for nonprofits makes it even easier to get motivated by our organization’s mission (great) and forget to take care of ourselves (not so great). Though being driven is a major asset, lack of self-care can easily lead to burnout. We may never be able to shut down our engines completely, but finding ways to channel our energy and creativity outside work can create greater balance and harmony in our lives. 

The same formula won’t work for everyone, but consider a few of these ways to find balance and stimulation outside of the office:

Get exercise

Our bodies were made to move. When we don't, it can drive down our focus, attention span, productivity... the list goes on and on. Inactivity has even been shown to cause more serious problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Joining a gym isn’t in the budget for everyone, but most locations have a reasonable young professional rate (and if you have health insurance, you may get an additional discount). If the gym’s not your style, there are other ways to get moving. In the summer, go for a walk over your lunch break or bike to and from your office. In the winter, do some jumping jacks in your cube or practice yoga in the mornings or evenings. Do whatever it takes to get your blood pumping.

Challenge yourself outside of work

It’s crucial that work doesn’t become the only place our minds are challenged or stimulated. Find something—anything—that makes you think critically or meaningfully outside of work. It could be a book club, a church group, a particularly intellectual group of happy hour goers—whatever gets your gears turning.

Find a creative outlet

One of the best self-care decisions I’ve ever made was to join a community choir last fall. Maybe singing’s not your thing, but find a way to express yourself that’s uniquely yours.  Draw, keep a journal, take photos, act, write your screenplay, cook... the possibilities are endless.

Volunteer

This one is pretty simple. What better way to forget work than to immerse yourself in the mission of another organization? Volunteering can provide a much needed dose of perspective, and it can also be a great way to build experience in areas other than your primary field.

Commit to disconnect

In our world of constant connection, we can easily become prisoners to technology. While we can't always unplug when we want to, it's important to set limits and stick to them. Resolve to close your email at 6 p.m. Turn off push notifications. Leave your smartphone on the nightstand for an evening. Find what works for you, and take some time off the grid when you can.

Do what you love

Hopefully we all have a passion for what we do, but most of us also have passions far removed from work—and these are healthy, too. Whatever it is that makes you tick, don't shut it out. Love some mindless reality TV? Plan a weekly watching party. Like to go to new restaurants? Commit to try one each month (and budget accordingly). Love the theater? Check out the Guthrie's nonprofit professionals discount program or the variety of pay-what-you-can performances around town. If work is keeping you from doing what you love, it won’t take long for stress and resentment to take over.

Not all of these strategies will work for everyone, but with a little experimentation, hopefully you'll find the balance that works for you.

How do you maintain a work-life balance and avoid burnout? (Here's a few more ideas from former Bush Foundation president Peter Hutchinson and YNPN blogger Lisa Joyslin.)

 

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