We're going to start this conversation talking a little bit about mental health and balance and how to navigate when you do wear many hats. Which usually comes with a huge workload and a lot of stress.
When I look back in my career, I did have some mental health crises, whether I was overworked or dealing with compassion fatigue. I think part of why I decided to talk about it was I had something happen about four years ago, and I was working for an organization and I basically went to work for about three weeks and wasn't getting anything done.
I couldn't make one more donor phone call. I couldn't write one more appeal. I was paralyzed. And this is a phenomenon known as presenteeism. So I was going there, they saw me. I didn't look any different. I didn't act any different, except there was this overwhelming anxiety inside me. And I just didn't want to say anything to anyone because I was afraid somebody would judge me.
People don't feel like they can be honest. Anytime I get a chance to hear anybody speak about mental health in our sector, I'm sitting in the front row because I still have lots to learn too.
So how do we take care of ourselves? In that context, and how do we ask for support from our employers to do so where we feel like we're not being judged? So that's two questions. I'll let you pick which to start with?
I would say that you're looking to find somebody, whether it be in your shop or outside your shop, who you can have an initial conversation with about it. And then almost like anything we do in our lives, have a bit of a plan.
I find for me, personally, when I feel burnout, I just disengage and I clear my calendar like a sick day. In our company, that's what sick days are for, they're for like when you're home with the flu, but also when you just need to disengage, and regroup and get help, whether that's seeing a therapist or a coach or going to yoga or for a run. To me, those are the days where we need to recover from our work.
And we’re so busy caring for others, but who is caring for us? There's people that are very much people-pleasers in this sector. There are people that are very A-type personalities. There are lots of introverts in this sector. So all of us need different ways to handle helping. And there’s a lot of pressure. You're affecting people's lives. So when we're out there saving and changing lives through our work, it can be daunting. Who's helping the helpers?
In any crisis, what really resonated with me is hearing it described as like you can't pour from an empty cup. And not just that you can't really pour effectively from a depleted cup, right? What can we do on a regular basis to make sure that we actually don't get so depleted?
It's really interesting. I speak a lot about joyful giving and joyful receiving. And what I mean by that is so often we're working so hard in our sector, and when people are actually giving us donations, we're not even joyful about it. We're just so exhausted. It's like, Okay, we got to get the thank you letter out. We've got to do this. We've got to do that.
I think making regular check-ins with people is important. I often talk about having a guardian angel - picking someone in the sector that you think you needs a check-in. And then check in on a regular basis.
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The Small Nonprofit is produced by Eloisa Jane Mariano