A little over two years ago, I arrived in Chicago for graduate school. I touched down in the city with a strong passion for helping others. I did all the â€œrightâ€ things. I joined a nonprofit board, took my graduate classes seriously, began mentoring a young girl, and started working full time at a nonprofit.
I was ready to change the world.
With so much on my plate, I always felt that I was running. I was running from one meeting to the next, from work to class, and from one networking event to the library. At the time, I didnâ€™t realize how this would have a negative effect on my health.
Over the next year, my demeanor began to change. What once made me so happy started to feel like a burden, and it all came to a climax the week after I lost my grandfather. Even when he passed, I did not stop moving. I just kept running until, one day, I could not get out of bed.
After that, I broke down for weeks.
It took me a long time to realize that the cause of my breakdown was simple. I was extremely overworked and overstressed. With so much running around, I forgot to take a break to take care of myself, so when one emotion exploded, they all did.
If any of this sounds even remotely familiar, donâ€™t worry! Burnout is common result of nonprofit work, a profession that requires a lot of time and energy. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and overworked.
Here are some tips to avoid your own atomic meltdown:
- Create a stable work life balance: We spend 40 hours per week at workâ€”possibly more if you work at a smaller nonprofit. Of course, you love what you do, but it is only healthy that you get away every now and then.Â Every month I have what I call a â€œTiffany Dayâ€. During Tiffany Day, I literally do whatever I want, whether it is writing or going to dinner at my favorite spot-alone or with friends. At the end of the day, I feel happy, because I was able to do something that was just for me. As nonprofit professionals, we spend our weeks making other people happy. Make sure you are doing the same for yourself!
- Feel free to say NO!: You love your cause and would do ANYTHING to further the missionâ€”I totally get that, but remember you do NOT have to do EVERYTHING. You work on a team for a reason, and sometimes it is okay to say no. Trust me, no one will think you are a horrible person and your mental health will thank you for it!
- Create strong social networks outside of work: At some point, I know you have started to realize that everything you do revolves around work. Oftentimes, your friends are from work and itâ€™s all you talk about. My best advice is to join social circles that take you away from your work. Healthy conversations that do not revolve around work will help you escape from the daily stressors of professional life.
- Develop and maintain side projects: Secretly, I love to write. My blog, blaqueandblue.com, started because of my passion, personal struggles, and my love of writing. It is a side project that helps me to release my frustrations.
The keyword in this tip is â€œmaintainâ€. As we get busier, side projects tend to be the first thing that gets kicked to the curb. Donâ€™t neglect your side projects! Take time to draw, write, sing, or do whatever you love. It will help in the long run.
Your health is just as important as the work you do. Your impact on the world will be defined by how well you take care of yourself and you will never be able to give your best if you are not at your best. Remember: stay happy, hopeful, and healthy!
Tiffany Shivers is the creator of Blaqueandblue.com a community blog dedicated to supporting African American men, women, and youth coping with depression and anxiety. In addition to her work with Blaque & Blue, Tiffany is a dedicated mentor, experienced event planner, motivational speaker and dedicated advocate with a passion for community development. In her free time, she enjoys writing, listening to music, and traveling.Â For more information on Tiffany, feel free to contact her atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org