How to Manage Burnout as a Nonprofit Professional

How to Manage Burnout as a Nonprofit Professional

The pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of employees across all sectors. With nonprofits hit especially hard as demand for their services increased while resources they’d relied on dried up, nonprofit employees were under enormous amounts of stress, dramatically increasing their risk of burnout. Even with vaccine rollouts well underway and the sector starting to recover, that risk is still very real. 

According to Glint’s State of the Manager Report, some of the warning signs of burnout include an overwhelming workload, feeling disconnected from colleagues, and conflict between home and work demands. These factors may not go away any time soon, so what can nonprofit professionals do to prevent or overcome burnout? Here are a few steps you can take.

1. Break up big tasks into small chunks

When you’re feeling burned out, getting through your to-do list can seem nearly impossible, especially when you have big projects on your plate. But the longer things linger on your list, the more stressed and overwhelmed you’ll feel.

To make big projects seem less daunting, try dividing them into tiny, manageable steps that can easily be checked off your list. For example, if you know your team has to produce your nonprofit’s annual report, you might break that down into tasks like “write mission statement,” “email finance department about data,” “share team assignments,” and so on. Completing any task, no matter how small, will leave you feeling accomplished and more motivated to move onto the next thing. 

2. Prioritize rest and self-care

Prioritize rest and self-care

If you don’t get rest when you need it, your body will eventually leave you with no choice but to stay in bed. Lack of sleep negatively impacts the immune system, making you more likely to get sick and increasing the severity of allergic reactions. 

Getting enough sleep is important—but equally important is taking a moment to relax and recenter yourself throughout the day. The approach above also applies to self-care, which may seem like a large and nebulous task. You don’t have to make huge commitments right away like buying an expensive membership to a yoga studio—your self-care journey can start with something as small as taking 10 minutes each morning to meditate, going on a quick walk during your break, or reading a chapter of your favorite book after work. 

3. Avoid comparing yourself to others

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing yourself to others can make you feel less-than at the best of times. When you’re already experiencing or on the brink of burnout, it can make send your confidence and self-worth plummeting. 

To avoid damaging comparisons with others, focus on comparing where you are now to where you were a year—or even a few months—ago. Every accomplishment, no matter how small, is worth acknowledging, whether it was running your nonprofit’s first virtual event, learning a new skill, or just showing up for your team on days when you didn’t feel your best. 

4. Find a strong support system

No person is an island. When things get tough, surrounding yourself with people you trust can help you navigate any challenge.

Consider who in your life gives the best advice or is always there when you need to vent. It might be a friend or family member, but it could also be a coworker or supervisor. If you’re concerned about being a burden, ask yourself if you would be there for the other person if the situation was reversed. If the answer is yes, then that person is probably more than happy to lift you up—after all, they likely have a strong sense that you’d do the same for them.

5. Wait 48 hours before making major decisions

Working at a nonprofit, you may sometimes be faced with decisions that require urgent action. But whenever possible, try to create some time and space for yourself before making big decisions—ideally, 48 hours. 

Taking a step back can help you gain perspective and ease any anxiety that comes with the decision. It gives you time to analyze the options rationally and talk things through with other stakeholders or team members, which could ultimately lead to better outcomes. As you practice this approach, you may come to realize that some decisions that felt incredibly urgent in the moment were not fire drills after all, helping you approach similar situations with greater calm and clarity in the future. 

Take care of yourself and your team

After a year like no other, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or burned out. But just because a lot of people feel this way right now, that doesn’t mean you have to accept burnout as an inevitable part of working life. 

Try the steps above, and for more guidance, consider taking a course on mindfulness or stress management on LinkedIn Learning. To learn more about how you can use LinkedIn Learning to support your team’s well-being—and your own—get in touch with our team.

This post was inspired by the LinkedIn Learning Blog article, “Managers Are Burned Out. These 5 Strategies Can Help You Get Back on Track,” authored by Rachel Parnes.

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