Happy New Year, nonprofiteer! Here we are, another year wiser and another year tireder. The adrenaline rush from year-end giving has vanished, and the twinkling holiday lights have been tucked away once more. As the season of giving ends and winter officially sets in, you’re probably feeling more than a tad run down and burned out.
Whether you’re struggling with burnout because the hours are long, the to-do lists are many, the days are short, or the thermometer is frozen, it doesn’t have to be this way. (Well, we can’t actually raise the temperature, but we can recommend our favorite space heaters and oversized cardigans.) With a little effort, a dash of self-advocacy, and a dollop of determination, you can rise from the ashes of burnout like a beautiful, confident phoenix. Your buddies at Funraise are here to lift your spirits and reinvigorate you.
- Draw a line. To recharge from the stresses of work, you need to protect your time. That means setting healthy limits. Repeat after us: I will not answer emails that come in after 6:00 pm, and furthermore, if I work a 14-hour shift for an event, I’m taking Monday as a comp day—not PTO. And breathe out on three, two, one.
- Talk it out. Turns out that bottling up your feelings is the opposite of self-care. While boundaries between work and life are wise, sharing your work frustrations with your nonprofit colleagues (AKA venting) is free therapy. Grab a latte and gab once a week or host a monthly stitch ’n’ bitch (or the more work-appropriate “sit ‘n’ knit”) with your fellow industry insiders. Reducing burnout starts with acknowledging it and improves by word-vomiting about it.
- Brew a whole pot of coffee. A venti coffee’s just the beginning when you’ve been working 14-hour days for a month straight! Instead, brew an entire pot. Sure, you may feel a teensy bit jittery, but that’s part of the fun …right?
- Go green. And by that, we mean adopt a whole lotta plant babies. Hanging with your greenies offers a plethora of health benefits, including reducing stress. And, if nothing else, they’ll give you something to talk about while everyone slowly trickles into the daily stand-up. Here’s a list, courtesy of the Washington Post, of plants you’re very unlikely to kill. Good luck and godspeed!
- Plan ahead. We know you’re wearing all the hats, in every style, but the more you can do to get ahead on what lies ahead, the better. If your manager is a last-minute type (been there, done that), talk to them about how it impacts your performance and well-being, and maybe encourage regular check-ins to remedy the issue.
- Eat something besides cookies. Cookies are amazing, and you probably have a lot left over at this time of year. So by all means, don’t let them go stale! But, at the same time, to keep your machine of a body in tip-top working shape, you’ll want to eat the occasional potato, too. You know, for the potassium. And maybe even some roasted cauliflower? Just crank that heat up and smother it in parmesan cheese—trust us.
- Sleep it off. According to science, lack of sleep is one of the main risk factors for burnout. So, do your exhausted body a favor and get plenty of shut-eye. It will restore your energy and boost your mood.
- Eat on the regular. Being hangry is a real thing, so do your rumbling tummy and churning mind a favor and eat throughout the day. Some crackers here, some hummus there, and you’ll find you can keep on keeping on.
- Put yourself first. There’s a pervading air of martyrdom culture in the nonprofit world, and it serves no one well. Just because you’re doing something that matters doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to take vacation days, get regular raises, and enjoy the occasional fancy muffin (streusel topping or it doesn’t count) on your organization’s dime.
- Cry in the bathroom stall while listening to "Everybody Hurts." It’s called catharsis!
- You do you. We all have our own ways of replenishing our energy. Some folks run while others bake. Some read a book; others hit the town. And some grow award-winning rutabaga while others scrapbook pictures of capybaras in hats. There’s no right or wrong; it’s about listening to yourself and doing what rejuvenates you.
- Pet all the dogs. It lowers blood pressure and it’s just really great. If you can bring your dog to the office to pet ‘em all day, all the better! No dog? No problem. Bring a cat, guinea pig, or pygmy hippo.
- Be buddy-buddy. Our friends or family members provide a much-needed support system outside the office, but what about the 8+ hours a day you spend in the office (or plugged into the online office)? Forging a bond with your colleagues can get you through long days and stressful stretches. After all, you already have something in common!
- Take up needlepoint felting. You’ll make adorable tiny animals by repeatedly stabbing your materials. The perfect hobby! Plus, the video tutorials are so relaxing.
- Accept that which you cannot change. You probably have a lot of work, and that’s that. But here’s the upside: according to the “Areas of Worklife” model, your workload is just one of six factors that contribute to burnout. So, accept that there’s a lot to do, and focus on all the things you can change.
- Take your hard-earned vacay. You know it, we know it, your friend’s sister’s cousin-twice-removed knows it: You need to take your vacation days if you don’t want to get majorly burned out.
- Do the Macarena. Burnout often manifests in tight muscles or pounding headaches. Exercise breaks are all well and good, but dance breaks are even better. Macarena breaks, though, are the best of all worlds.
Whatever you do, approach yourself and your team with compassion, commitment, and a little bit of comedy.