Why Self-Care Is So Important for Charity Workers
It doesn’t matter if you’re putting in endless gruelling hours serving at a local food bank or managing a multimillion-dollar non-profit, working in the charity sector can be stressful, draining and downright exhausting.
This isn’t a knock against the concept that charity work is rewarding to an individual who is donating their time and effort—it certainly is. But that doesn’t change the fact that actually putting in the hard work can be exceptionally draining on a physical, mental and emotional level.
If you’re all too familiar with this sentiment, it may mean you need to take some time to slow down, turn inward for a bit and take care of yourself.
Put your oxygen mask on first
Charity workers regularly tackle significant humanitarian and environmental issues around the globe. After all, helping those who are suffering and in need is a core concept for this kind of career. Whether you’re attempting to manage limited resources in a struggling rural area, volunteer teaching in a disadvantaged neighbourhood or packing your bags to dig wells for impoverished communities overseas, you can rest assured that, sooner or later, charity work will drain you.
That’s why it’s important to remember that age-old rule of flying in an aeroplane: put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help the person sitting next to you. While this may go against every fibre of your helpful, charity-focused being, the reasons for the rule of thumb are abundantly clear. In the example, if you pass out five seconds into an emergency, you won’t be able to help anyone around you.
In the same sense, as a charity worker, if you don’t take the time to preserve your own stamina and husband your strength for the long term, you’ll eventually pass out, metaphorically speaking, and you’ll ultimately be far less productive. That’s where a little self-care comes into play.
Suggestions for appropriate self-care measures
The concept of self-care has been utterly abused by many people who use it as an excuse for self-indulgence. True self-care, though, is ultimately focused on selflessness rather than selfishness.
If you can approach your self-care efforts with this mindset, you’ll be much more successful as you go. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for productive, effective self-care activities that can genuinely help you help others.
Make an honest self-assessment
It all starts with your ability to assess your current condition. Again, there’s an inherent difference between the need to eat healthily and the desire for a burger and chips. In the same vein, wanting to get a massage is indulgent, whereas getting proper rest is necessary.
Begin your self-care journey by taking an honest look inwards and assessing where you’re truly lacking. Start with these questions:
- Are you perpetually exhausted?
- Are you losing or gaining weight?
- Are you out of shape?
- Are you mentally drained or depressed?
- Are you emotionally burnt out?
Once you have an idea of your current condition, you can move on to the next steps.
Don't miss another post, sign up to our weekly newsletter
Monitor your work hours
One of the most effective ways to address long-term burnout is by considering how long you’re working. It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole that is ‘saving the world’, but at the end of the day, you can’t shoulder that burden all on your own.
In the name of proper self-care, take a look at your average hours worked each week. Do you have an effective work-life balance, or are you averaging 10 plus hours of overtime every week like so many others in the UK?
Ask yourself if you’re truly putting in the extra effort out of gracious care for others or from a work addiction or even guilt? If it’s either of the latter, it’s time to rein in those work hours and restore some balance.
Get better sleep
Along with focusing on work-life balance, make sure you’re getting a proper amount of sleep each night. This doesn’t have to be a luxurious twelve-hour shift or a ‘dawn to dusk’ kind of scenario.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. However, it’s important that you consider the quality of your sleep as well as the quantity. Make sure you’re creating a calming bedroom and bedtime routine:
- Turning off electronics well before bedtime
- Maintaining an area that is specifically devoted to sleeping (even if it’s just your bed)
- Utilising things like blackout curtains to create a sleep-focused atmosphere
If you can address the quality and quantity of your sleep, you’ll be better refreshed on a daily basis.
Manage the stress
There are many, many causes of stress in the charity sector. Whatever stresses you may be facing, it’s important to do your best to manage them, the operative word being ‘manage.’ Stress is a normal part of life, and if you try to straight-up eliminate stress, you likely won’t succeed. However, if you try your best to manage your stress, you’ll be much more effective.
You can do this through:
- Looking for cognitive distortions in your thought processes
- Daily meditation and prayer
- Using things like decluttering and essential oils to create a stress-free environment to work in
If you can strive to manage the stress you’re regularly experiencing, your endurance and self-awareness will naturally grow over time.
Real self-care: a critical ingredient for charity workers
There are many ways to provide self-care. Remember, though, it all starts with an awareness and a willingness to self-assess. If you can take that step, you’ll be able to start managing that chronic burnout and will likely find a new sense of enjoyment and passion for your work in the process.