Balancing a nonprofit job and self-care

It is not surprising to anybody in the nonprofit world that we all end up doing a lot more than what our job description initially entailed. In many cases, organizations have too much work to get done with not enough hands to help, so we all end up pitching in. I am the first one to admit that I usually have a hard time saying “no” when my boss asks me to take on extra projects, or to take over projects from other staff members. It took me a long time to be able to say “I’m sorry, but I can’t”. I don’t say it often, but the first time those words came out of my mouth I panicked. What if my boss was mad because I said no? What if they thought I was incompetent?

I felt a lot better after I had a conversation with my boss explaining why I couldn’t take on another project at that time. She turned out to be very understanding and worked with me on moving around project timelines. But the reality is that we won’t always be able to say no when we feel overwhelmed at work because, at least in my case, it always feels like everyone around me is just as busy. We are so tired at the end of the day that all we want to do is go home and lay on the couch to rest. However, little by little, it became clear to me that some things had to change, and that I had to start taking care of myself if I wanted to give my best performance at work.

Here are some small changes you can make to practice and prioritize self-care:

Take a 10-min walk halfway through the day.

I’ve done this many times. There are days when I eat my lunch at my desk because I am really focused on a project, and when I’m done I really need a break so I’ll go on a walk around the block.

Get a standing desk.

My organization doesn’t have the budget to buy me a standing desk, so I made my own with boxes and books. IKEA also has them and they’re not too pricey. It is helpful to stand while working, especially for those of us that have an office job and sit for hours. Moving your legs will keep you more energized and you won’t feel as lethargic at the end of the day.

Work from different spaces if you are able.

There are days when the office is overwhelming, and the thought of spending eight hours there gives me anxiety. Since most of my work can be accomplished from a computer, I can often work remotely. Other days I work from a conference room in my office building, or from a coffee shop nearby in case I need to go back to the office. This makes my day a little better and I can get my work done without feeling stressed out.

Find an activity to do after work that helps you disconnect.

Even if you have to take some work home at the end of the day, still make sure you have time for yourself. There are days when all I want to do is lay on the couch and watch some Netflix, and that does help me disconnect, but most days I go workout. I have found exercising to be the best therapy to keep my anxiety under control and I get home so tired that I fall asleep right away. Just find whatever helps YOU. This can be reading a book, getting together with friends, or going on a walk.

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