Battling Nonprofit Burnout with Summer Self-Care

How to take care of yourself at work and stay productive when you can’t stay focused

A seasonal slowdown is a great time to explore summer self-care. In my last post, I covered several ways to make the most of your free time to improve your outcomes for the year and make your life easier while you’re at it.

But let’s be honest: Sometimes, you’re just not feeling it.

In life, and certainly in mission-driven work, it’s really important to make space for your own well-being. Maybe you’re feeling disconnected to your mission or burned out. Or maybe you’re jaded by the bureaucracy of it all or are losing sight of your long-term career goals. Maybe you’re just really, really, tired.

Summer self-care ideas you can squeeze in at work

I sort of hate the term self-care. To me, the term evokes images of performative Instagram yoga, overindulgence or aspirational consumerism. But at its core, that’s not what self-care should or needs to be. In fact, genuine self-care is a key way not only to recharge before the next busy season, but also to give yourself the best chance to enjoy your work–not just to endure it.

get outdoors for summer self-care
Okay, so maybe a picnic in the mountains isn’t realistic,
but at least get out from behind your desk.
Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Summer Self-Care: Movement, Connection and Environment

I find the best self-care for work focuses on three areas: movement, connection and environment. Here are a few self-care ideas for this summer to tackle at work:

  • Take a real lunch. Outside. Walk there, if you can. Repeat as often as you reasonably can fit into your schedule.
  • Schedule a coffee or lunch date with someone in your network whom you admire.
  • Reorganize your workspace. Shred or recycle documents you don’t need anymore, redo your file system. Dust your monitor and clean your mouse and keyboard. Maybe pick up a new plant to keep at your desk or print a few photos of friends and loved ones.
  • See if you can schedule an afternoon to work offsite, ideally somewhere with a great atmosphere, like your favorite coffee shop, the beautiful downtown library or an outdoor space with WiFi.
  • Get to know someone better at work. For instance, you could set up a “catch up” meeting with a program director to learn more about what’s new in their department. Or, just sit with a new group at lunch. In addition to feeling more personally connected with your colleagues, you may stumble across some good ideas for collaborating.
  • Do some introspection on what makes you tick. This could be taking a few personality tests (like StrengthsFinder, Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, etc.) Whether or not you believe in them, you may discover something new about yourself in the process.
  • Take a big-picture look at your professional development goals and plans. Identify conferences, webinars or networking groups you want to explore. Review your most recent performance evaluation and identify any areas you can work to improve or need more help, or areas you’re not tracking progress but could start.
  • If you’re feeling unsalvageably burned out, consider what steps you may need to take, whether that’s having a heart-to-heart with your supervisor or planning for a move (though you shouldn’t be job hunting or updating your resume at work, of course.)

Mindless mindfulness: Get things done when your energy is zilch

Finally, here are some productive ways to pass the time when you really, truly don’t have the energy to do anything else:

  • Create a few Twitter lists to help you better monitor your online ecosystem. This could be peer organizations, industry leaders, media contacts or potential stakeholders (like donors, volunteers, etc.)
  • Create a few collections of stock photos for different themes or events in your future. (I love Unsplash, if you haven’t noticed.)
  • Do a digital cleanout. Reorganize your files, clear off your desktop and unsubscribe from newsletters that are cluttering up your inbox.
  • Create a folder in your email for any good feedback you’ve gotten. Start storing “Congrats, this is great!” or “You’re the best. We couldn’t have done this without you, and you brought so much organization and creativity to this project” emails there. You can share this with your supervisor at future reviews or just go back and reread them when you’re having a tough day.
  • Clean your keyboard (Yes, again. It’s disgusting.)

About the Author Reanna

I'm a freelance writer, part-time farmer, full-time mom of two and sometimes blogger. I like craft beer, low-key DIY projects and reading advice columns.

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