Image credit: Pexels

As a nonprofit volunteer, you probably find joy in taking care of others. However, when was the last time that you made time to take care of yourself?

Evan Parks, a clinical psychologist and adjunct assistant professor at Michigan State University, points out that many people skip self-care practices because they think they must sacrifice their own needs to meet the needs of others. He explains that other people also think they lack time for self-care, especially when they’re already handling difficult tasks like work, house chores, and volunteer work. These are very harmful beliefs because self-care isn’t an optional task you should only do during your free time.

You must practice self-care, especially if you’re a nonprofit volunteer. People who do volunteer work regularly go above and beyond for others. For us, 2021 was a record-setting year as we were able to prepare 2,033,379 meals due to our dedicated volunteers. Plenty of people were able to eat delicious and healthy meals through their hard work, which is why our volunteers also deserve to honor themselves with a bit of self-care.

So if you’re a nonprofit volunteer, here are a few self-care strategies that can help you out:

Build standards and principles for your practice

Your self-care strategy can have more profound effects once you have proper standards and principles for your practice.

Since standards for self-care have never been properly established, an article published in Nonprofit Quarterly recommends that you create guidelines for your practice. For example, you can be strict with the length of time your practice is open to help you build concrete plans for your me time. These standards and principles also make it easier for you to measure your progress, therefore allowing you to assess which self-care method works best for you.

Make room for self-care in daily transitions

Even if you’re still busy with professional and volunteer work, you can still make time for self-care.

The self-care strategies for social workers suggested by Maryville University can be done during daily transitions to help you feel better during busy and stressful times. In between activities, you can take five minutes to assess your thoughts or choose a better mindset before proceeding with your next task. You can also dedicate the first five minutes of your day to set an intention or do a quick journaling exercise before you sleep to care for yourself outside your busy schedule.

Allow yourself to take a break

Though you can squeeze in self-care practices in your busy schedule, you should still make it a point to take frequent breaks.

You can start by dedicating one day in your week to do all of your favorite self-care activities. If one day a week sounds impossible, you can set aside one hour per day to do whatever you like or simply do nothing. Even taking a few minutes off between intense activities can improve your mood for the rest of the day and make you feel more recharged.

Manage your emotions with healthy practices

Volunteering at a nonprofit can get tough, and you may encounter heartbreaking situations or interact with people that are going through tough times.

As such, it’s critical that you take care of your emotions. Verywell Mind states that emotional self-care can be any activity that helps you acknowledge and express your feelings in a safe manner. You can try expressing your emotions through a fun painting session, or even simply share how you feel about your day with a friend. By processing your emotions properly, you can reduce any burnout symptoms and will feel relaxed even after a tough day.

Self-care strategies are a must, especially if you spend most of your time taking care of others. These precious activities can improve your mental health and help you serve other people better.

Article written by Roseanne Jessup