What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of chronic stress from being overworked that puts you in a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. Burnout can happen to anyone in any field, but is especially prevalent amongst nonprofit workers and activists.
Burnout can cause you to:
Feel Fatigued or exhausted
Feel that nothing you do makes a difference
Lose the passion for your work
Be less productive in your work
It’s well known that there is a high prevalence of burnout amongst nonprofit workers and social impact leaders. Why is that? When you first start out you are excited, ready to make a difference. And since you are particularly passionate about the mission, you tend to work longer hours and tip the scale on your work/life balance. After a while of working too much and not taking care of yourself, compounded by the low pay and poor management, you start to slide into burnout territory. Here’s 5 things you can do everyday to help prevent getting to that point in the first place.
Do you get up right when your alarm goes off, or are you a multiple-alarm-snoozer? Having a regular morning routine can help prevent you from feeling rushed to get to work without taking care of your needs first. Not only is it important to take time for yourself and practice self-care, having a routine can prevent you from having a negative mental association with going to work. Think about what your perfect morning looks like. What do you do for mind/body/spirit care? Meditate, do yoga, eat a healthy breakfast, enjoy your morning cup of coffee; whatever it is for you, create a routine and leave yourself enough time to not have to rush.
Having a regular morning routine also means getting enough sleep. Try to give yourself eight hours. So if know you need to wake up at 6am to complete your morning routine and get to work on time, make sure you get to bed by 10pm. Try to regularize your night routine as well, so if you need an hour to perform your pre-bed selfcare, then get in the habit of starting your routine at 9pm.
Move Your Body
How many of you work mainly on a computer? I’m going to guess that it’s most of you. So there you are sitting at a desk, probably slouching, staring at the computer in the same position for HOURS, and let me tell you, your body is NOT happy.
Get up! Stretch, take a walk, do some jumping jacks; anything to get your muscles warmed up and the blood flowing. Not only does getting more blood flowing help your brain, but moving your body regularly can help prevent a whole host of diseases.
If you’re like me, then you can get really engrossed in ALL THE WORK you have to do, and totally forget to take breaks. And it’s not just getting engrossed, even worse, I feel GUILTY when I’m not working. Especially as a home-based entrepreneur, it can get hard to differentiate from home-life and work-life.
BUT taking breaks has been scientifically shown to IMPROVE productivity! How is this possible? Have you ever been working on a project for so long that you end up just staring at a document for what seems like forever? That’s because your brain is TIRED. It needs a break. This study shows how prolonged attention to a single task DECREASES your performance. Even if you just take 5 to 10 minutes every few hours to go outside, eat some food, and disconnect from work mentally, you will see a jump in your productivity and creativity. Give that PreFrontal Cortex some time to recharge.
Leave Work at the Office
This is a tricky one for those of you who are home-based entrepreneurs. We can’t let our work overwhelm our entire lives. I know it’s important, world changing work, but if we don’t keep a healthy work/life balance we ultimately wont be able to sustain a life of doing work for the greater good. It is important to have joy in your life. And while a lot of the work we all do is serious and sometimes even depressing, it is important to realize that you ARE doing your part; you can’t fix it all on your own. So pat yourself on the back for fighting the good fight between 9-5 and taking care of yourself and keeping the joy and hope alive the rest of the time.
Celebrate the Small Victories
When the issue you are working on is SO big it can be hard to see positive progress in real time. Remember that even the smallest win is an ACHIEVEMENT. Celebrate that. Making sure you feel the difference you are making on a daily basis will keep you motivated to keep fighting.
Just Say No
If you’re a people pleaser like me, you probably have a hard time saying no. Taking on too many projects and commitments often leads to burnout. Doing things starts to become an obligation, rather than something you really want or need to be doing. Saying no isn’t easy and it definitely takes some practice. Remember to stand firm with your nos and don’t let people pressure you into a yes unless it’s something you really want. It’s also okay to change your mind later, and decide you are now ready to take something on that you weren’t able to do before.