How to Handle Stress in The Charity Sector
It may come as no surprise that people who work in the charity sector tend to be happier and more fulfilled than their counterparts in private companies – but that’s the nature of having a job where spend your days helping others. The more you give, the better you feel. It’s a fact. And that happiness in the workplace bleeds into all aspects of your life: your home, your hobbies, your family. In other words, doing good is infectious.
But that doesn’t mean that the sector is without its challenges and stresses. Just like in any other job, charity workers have looming deadlines, needy stakeholders and a mountain of regulations to follow. However much the profession seems to be rewarding and motivating, it is also a significant source of stress and worries for workers. The trick is figuring out how to manage that stress. Let’s break it down.
What are the most common causes of stress in the charity sector?
Charity sector workers are not exempt from anxiety, burnout and stress. In fact, one of the biggest stressors in the sector is money. Unlike other sectors, all money that comes through a charity is funded by the public. That means, if not enough donations are coming in, a charity can’t afford to run their organisation the way they have been in the past. This can cause lay off and cuts to essential programs. And funding is increasingly becoming more and more challenging with contributors tightening their budgets.
According to Lucas Fettes & Partners, lack of funding is the top emerging risk in the UK charity sector. In fact, 79% of employees and 82% of volunteers surveyed believe charities face more challenges today than three years ago.
Brexit has also emerged as a key issue in the UK charity sector. The Lloyds Bank Foundation projected that the UK’s departure from the European Union will result in the loss of EU funding and European staff. That means even less financial backing.
Charity sector workers often go the extra mile to launch an event or to run a program. These issues can have a knock-on effect for staff within the sector.
According to charitybackroom.org, stress can also be caused when there is a mismatch between job requirements and the individual abilities; which are as follows:
- Demands: Workers get overloaded by the amount of work or type of work
- Control: Charity workers have no say over how and when they do their work
- Support: Lack of support from various quarters
- Relationships: Poor work relationships lead to increased stress
- Role: Lack of understanding of their role leads to employees’ increased anxiety
- Change: Poor change management attributed to this sector leads to uncertainty and insecurity for the employees
So how do you combat the stresses that are inevitable when working in this sector? We’ve got a few tips that may come in handy.
1. Learn to see it coming
Know the triggers and recognise your unique signs of stress (these may be different for different people). By regularly monitoring yourself, you can anticipate what causes the most stress and reduce exposure. For example, a lack of boundaries around acceptable work hours can be a trigger. According to Enid Grant, senior manager at Delisle Youth Services, “Charity workers that work directly with clients experiencing long-term issues, such as trauma or severe mental health challenges, are at particular risk”. She adds, “Trauma begins to impact you over time when you hear story after story.” Therefore, you need to start thinking more positively or visualise a calm environment capable of washing away your stress.
2. Understand what’s right for your physical and emotional health
Being immersed in your charity work around the clock, you’re probably not fully aware of how you should manage stress. Whether it is eating, exercising or sleeping; you have to restore your energy, motivation and momentum. Learn that your health is more important, then you can take care of others. So whenever you feel like you’re in quicksand, overwhelmed or drowning; just know what is right for your physical and emotional well-being.
3. Avoid working at home
Just try this one trick: don’t work at home for one month. The line between your work and home life can have a heavy toll on you. Through technology, mobile devices and social media, you are more likely to overburden and tire yourself. Just keep asking, ‘do I really need to do this piece of work in my own time?’
4. Exercise regularly
Being a dedicated charity worker, you may be too busy to exercise; but it is a powerful weapon to handle stress. Exercise promotes the production of endorphins and neurohormones like norepinephrine, which is associated with improved cognitive function, elevated mood and learning. By exercising more, you will begin to shed your daily tensions through movements and physical activity. It also improves your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress and anxiety.
5. Take frequent breaks
A break from work can work wonders for you. Stress drains out most of your energy, time and efficiency; so going on a holiday, travelling or on a retreat will make you happier and more refreshed. If things get a little too much, try putting some time aside for just for yourself, work on your hobbies. Additionally, doing meditation and mental exercises during your break can help combat your stress.
6. Don’t forget to have fun
Many studies have provided evidence that having fun after stressful work environments lifts a person’s mood. Don’t put off socialising with your friends and family; keep talking to people in your networking relationships. You can even organise small house parties for your close friends. Just because you’ve got a busy work life doesn’t mean you should put off time for yourself.
How to formulate and review a self-care plan
Developing and following a self-care plan can go a long way in combating stress. With mild activities in the beginning, you can increase frequency and duration, which will establish a baseline for these habits. As a result, you will be able to enhance your health and wellbeing, manage your stress and maintain professionalism. Try the following as a template:
- Develop a regular sleep routine
- Eat healthy
- Get some exercise before/after work regularly
- Increase relaxation and equanimity
- Pursue your hobbies
Feel cleansed of stress already? Jump on into the job search and find a great charity job where you can put that clear mind to use.
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