Real talk: year-end fundraising is rewarding and exhilarating. But it’s also stressful and frenzied, especially if you wear a lot of hats in your position. Burnout is a huge problem in the nonprofit industry; what can we do to mitigate burnout during one of the busiest times of year?
Avoiding year-end burnout is important. Your health depends on it. Your coworkers depend on it. And your clients depend on it. You matter!
We’re pausing our normal fundraising-focused content to give you some ideas that will keep you grounded. Here are some ways to avoid mental (and physical!) burnout:
1. Make a To-Do List
This is a simple tip, but it’s a powerful one. Being super busy means it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. Things falling through the cracks means spending mental energy trying to keep them straight. Save your mental energy and keep a to-do list.
Carry your to-do list with you. When something new comes up, add it to the list. A good list will save you from forgetting to reply to emails, overlooking small tasks, and even from communicating with other staff.
It’s a good idea to expand your list to include activities outside of work, too. The holidays are busy outside work hours as well!
Sitting is the new smoking, and you’re probably going to spend a lot of time at your desk. Getting up from your desk to stretch and move around is important for your health, including your mental health! You don’t have to make it a long break. Even just walking to the kitchen to go get a cup of coffee or stretch your legs will make a difference. You’ll feel more alert, reduce strain on your eyes, and help mitigate back pain.
3. Accentuate Your Office
Being in the office all the time can be a bummer. But spending a little time making it comfortable can help make it less stressful.
Bring a few things you love from home to keep in your office. Grab a throw from your living room (especially if your office is chilly) and a candle or oil diffuser. String up some Christmas lights or bring in a decoration that means something to you. Small changes can make a big impact on your well-being, especially during times of stress.
4. Express Gratitude
Showing gratitude to the people around you keeps you happier, healthier, and more resilient. It’s science!
You already show your donors how much you appreciate them; why not write a quick note? Getting a handwritten note makes a big impression on donors, and it’s a fundraising best practice. Next time you’re stressed, take 5 minutes to write a quick note. It’ll boost your donor retention rate… and your mood.
Don’t only show gratitude to donors. Go out of your way to tell your coworkers and staff how much you appreciate them. Did someone bring in absolutely fantastic cookies? Tell them. Does your coworker have a knack for knowing when you need help? Let them know you appreciate it. Is your significant other being extra helpful when you’re tired at the end of the day? Give them a big thank-you. You’ll make their day and yours at the same time.
5. Eat Well (but Plan for Treats)
It’s so tempting to skip meals or grab a snack from the vending machine when you’re busy. Resist the temptation! Eating well makes a huge difference to your health, energy, and overall mood. You’ll stay healthier and more alert, and your body will recover from stress more quickly.
But let’s be serious — the holiday season is approaching, and that means treats. One of the best upsides of eating well is that you can indulge later without feeling bad. So eat your breakfast, don’t skip lunch, and savor those cookies your coworker baked.
6. Get Some Exercise
You’re busy. Your family is busy. Exercise is usually pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. But getting exercise doesn’t have to mean finishing a grueling workout. Even a short walk can make a big difference.
There are a million ways to work a little extra movement into your day. Take the stairs, if you can. Park farther away thank you usually would. Take a walk after dinner. Go to the playground with your kids. Getting your heart rate up a little bit will help you stay focused during the day and will help you sleep better at night.
Speaking of sleep…
7. Get Enough Sleep
Busy work schedules, fundraising events, galas, parties, and family get-togethers make it really easy not to get enough sleep. But skipping the nightcap and heading home to bed is worth it!
The American Psychological Association reports that even minor sleep deprivation has a dramatic impact on stress levels. When you don’t sleep enough, you’re not just missing out on beauty sleep. You’re leaving yourself susceptible to higher stress, feelings of being overwhelmed, and illness. So get your sleep!
8. Be Mindful
You can do everything in the world to mitigate stress, but stress happens. It’s natural. When that happens, the best way to handle it is to recognize it, acknowledge it, and work through it.
When you feel yourself getting stressed out or overwhelmed, stop for a second. Why do you feel like that? What can you do to address the situation that’s making you stressed? If you can’t change the situation, what’s a healthy way to work though it?
Sometimes choosing and tackling a task on your list will help. Sometimes a quick stretch and talk with a coworker helps. Sometimes you just need to acknowledge that stress happens and that it won’t last forever.
Be mindful of your emotions! It makes life feel more manageable.
9. Plan Something
Give yourself something to look forward to! You can do this on different time tables; all will make handling stress easier. Long day? Plan a quiet night at home. Long week? Make plans to go out with friends on Friday. Long month? Plan a weekend full of your favorite things. Long season? Plan a vacation (or stay-cation!).
Anticipating something nice gives you a goal to work for. A crazy work period seems more manageable when you have a reward at the end!
10. Remember You’re Not Alone
Stress makes us feel isolated. We don’t like showing each other our stress, so it’s easy to forget that others are in the same boat. The holidays are stressful for a lot of people! If you’re stressed or overwhelmed or discouraged, remember you’re not alone. Confide in a coworker or friend and see how you can help each other through one of the busiest times of the year.
You’re an important part of your nonprofit, and your work has a valuable impact on the world. Take care of yourself this season! The world needs people like you in it.
Now, deep breaths. You can do it!