Being a leader can be a challenge.  But being a nonprofit leader brings further dimensions to leadership that can amplify that challenge. Nonprofit leaders are combating injustice, serving the marginalized and fighting every day to capsize inequalities. Plus, there’s the constant funding roller coaster. Social change leadership is unique and complex but, there are some amazing benefits in the nonprofit sector that you just can’t get anywhere else. We’re making the world a better place. Every day. And that is something to be proud of. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you see the positive changes in your community as a result of your and your team’s hard work.

However, just because we can feel good about the work we do doesn’t mean that it makes up for the stress and pressure of this particular leadership role. We still have to take care of ourselves to ensure we have the energy and passion to keep coming back to it day after day. Self-care for nonprofit leaders is vitally important and we’d like to help you get to a place where you can make it a priority.

Before we get to the actual self-care tips we need to make space for it to have impact. These four steps will help you reap the benefits of taking care of yourself.

  1. Recognize and accept that taking a break is not selfish. It is necessary for you, your team and the people you serve for the leader to be energized and motivated to lead the organization.
  2. Make time. You may feel like you do not ‘have’ time for self-care, which is why you need to ‘make’ time. Schedule it.
  3. Realize that there are aspects to your work over which you have no control. You can not do everything. Worrying about things you can’t control will compound your stress. Make a list of things that are stressing you out but that you can not control. Then crumple it up and throw it away. Don’t let those factors own your well-being.
  4. Do the hard stuff first. Have you got a report that needs to be finished? A clean-up of your desk and workspace? A difficult conversation with a staff member? An email you haven’t responded to? Do it now. Get it over with and you’ll feel invincible!

Now that you’ve made the space and time for self-care, here are some tips:

  1. Phone a friend. Sometimes all we need to do is unload some of the stuff that’s bothering us. Phone a friend to talk, or better yet, phone a friend to meet in person for coffee, drinks or a walk. Make sure to return the favour when she needs you, too!
  2. Get outside. It may be cliché but it’s effective. Taking a walk in the quiet can do wonders for your mental health. Try to find a place where there’s greenery, birds, or water. There’s something about being in the woods that clears the mind and feels peaceful. The impact can last for days.
  3. Exercise! It’s true what they say about endorphins; exercise just makes you feel good! It doesn’t have to be a chore. Find something you love to do like dancing, playing volleyball, yoga, hiking – literally anything that gets your heart rate up and sweats out your worries!
  4. Treat yourself! What is it that you love to do? Get massages or manicures? Shop? Take a road trip? Learn something new? Whatever it is that makes you happy, plan it, save for it and just do it.
  5. Sleep. Like, really sleep. Get enough as often as you can. You’ll be amazed the difference it makes to your state of mind when you’re not exhausted.

And these are just a start. There are great resources out there containing wonderful tips for looking after yourself:

Take some advice from a woman who has burnt out more than once:

‘Research also shows swearing can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem.’ An F-bomb as part of self-care?! Read more here:

Learn more about the self-care related themes of TIME OUT, ‘Reflect, Learn, Connect’, from PLC’s Executive Director, Lianne Picot, here:

Finally, the particular importance of leaders taking time for self-care:

And now we want to hear from you! How do you practice self-care? How do you ensure you do it on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments section!

Until next time,

The PLC Team

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