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You spend so much time caring for everyone else (clients, team, organization, cause) that caring for yourself takes a back seat, and the next thing you know, you are burnt out, with no relief in sight.

Self-care not only sounds like a luxury, but also a selfish act when you are surrounded by so many circumstances which you view as less fortunate than your own.

This perpetuates a cycle in which we train ourselves to discount our own pain and exhaustion.

To ignore ourselves at the expense of ourselves. All the while telling ourselves that either our pain is not as bad as others, or that we will make time some other day to take time out for ourselves and tend to our needs.

Only by the time we do (if that day ever comes), we are in such a deficit of self-care, the road back to ourselves seeming so overgrown, our mental, spiritual and psychological states so compromised, that making space for a break of any kind (3-day weekend, week-long vacation, long lunch), becomes a joyless chore.

Let’s confirm the ‘known knowns’….

  • The average non profit professional is given 12 – 14 paid vacation days per calendar year

  • The average non-profit professional frequently puts in 50 – 60 hour weeks (at least 20 hours of unreported & uncompensated time)

  • Only 23% of nonprofit professionals report taking all of their vacation time, and 66% report that they do work while on vacation

  • Many nonprofit organizations do not recognize a broad-spectrum representation of paid holidays – with most limiting paid holidays to Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, July 4th, Labor Day and Memorial Day

  • Most nonprofit professionals must tap into their vacation time to observe ‘non-mainstream’ religious or cultural holidays (ex. Ramadan, Diwali, Chinese New Year)

Listen, I know I’m preaching to the choir…

If you’re like me, you know all about working 12-hour days, waking up early on weekends to run a community programming event, missing dinner with family to attend meetings in the evening, or running off into the middle of the night to respond to a client crisis.

Then there are the nights when our kids or partners are asleep, and we stay up late to pack the lunches, do the laundry, make the bottles, and tidy up the remains of the day, to do it all again the next morning.

So what’s the solution?

Like any big change – the long road back to being “self-well” will take small steps, repeatedly regularly over time.

At that first step is – Take.Your.Time.

Here’s my challenge to you:

  • Check your vacation balance (bonus points if you know your balance without having to ask HR

  • Identify minimum 1 day in the next 30 days to take off. (Not work from home, Actually take off.)

  • Take scheduled day off (Mandatory – activate email away message, reroute your work cell, deactivate calendar and email phone alerts).

  • Bonus points – journal at the start, end or throughout the day about your ‘Day Off ‘, giving special attention to how it made you feel (judgement free zone – anxious, bored, elated, giddy….all feelings are fair…just notice and record them…let them come and go)

If you’re up to the challenge – comment your ‘pledge’ by announcing your day off below!

Something like: April 15th is Ayeshah Parker’s Day Off!

And if you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts on self-care for nonprofit professionals, check out my blog here.

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