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Self Care and the Nonprofit Professional...Spoiler Alert: It's Important!

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I know taking time off is hard to do. The work of restoring balance to the world never ends. Even when you're not actively working, you're still thinking about stuff, ruminating on how to raise more money, why your desk is a mess, when you'll get around to filing things, whether you should check-in with a client you helped five years ago, etc. Most of us are never truly off in this vocation. We don't make widgets. Or ice cream. Our work is often life or death. That's why I keep hearing some of you say things like "I haven't taken a day of PTO in three years." Or "I haven't had a real vacation in a decade."
That makes the Great and Loving Unicorn of Equity cry bitter tears of sadness. As Thich Nhat Hanh says:
"We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don't allow our bodies to heal, and we don't allow our minds and hearts to heal."
Look in the mirror. That is one smart and dedicated nonprofit professional. Dashing too. Have you been so busy making the world better that you've neglecting yourself?
We are dedicated to our important work. But resting and renewing is good for our work. Taking breaks and vacations makes you more productive and creative. It's good for our sector.
So, try to take some time off this summer. Soon. Plan a significant continuous number of days off. Learn to do nothing. Let go of work for a moment. Let go of your guilt. You are not indispensable. You don't need to be. There is no glory in burnout. You deserve time to let your body, mind, and heart rest. And if you have it in your control, be generous with time off for your team. The sector will be better for it.
I know, that can be hard. We deal with a lot in this line of work. As my colleagues Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman wrote in their awesome new book The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, we need to discuss not just self-care, but "we-care," including organizational and societal factors, such as decent salaries.
Still, there are too many of you not taking time to rest even when you can. Please do so, and encourage your colleagues to do so as well. We need you for the long haul.
And if you won't rest for your own and the sector's benefit, there is one more reason, probably the most important one, that many of us keep forgetting.
It is summer. The days are longer. These days are the inspirations of countless poignant short stories with cicadas singing at twilight and lakes dappled with late-evening sun like someone scattering a thousand pennies across the water, or something poetic like that. And for good reasons. There are only so many of these days left in each of our lives to spend with the people important to us. Kids grow up fast, and the hours with our parents, siblings, and others we love are not infinite, as I learned over a decade ago. As this illuminating article by Tim Urban of Wait But Why says,
"Despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life."
You deserve this time with the people you care about, and they with you.
Written By Vu Le on the indispensable website for nonprofits: Nonprofit: Awesomely Fun, http://nonprofitaf.com/
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