The holiday giving season is indeed the most wonderful time of year when you work for a charity. The phones ring off the hook and the donations we dream of start to flow in. The boring task of getting the mail each day is suddenly full of excitement as the checks start to pour in from near and far. Piles of clothing, food, toys and gifts fill every corner and require constant tending and sorting. It’s a thrill to see the community step up and come alongside us to support the mission we fight for every day, but the sheer volume of donations causes overwhelm. You’re a nonprofit worker, so you don’t have the luxury of slowing down during the holidays or taking things easy.

The Giving Season

The holiday giving season for charity workers is, well, let’s be honest, it’s cray cray! In fact, most charities will receive nearly half of their annual community contributions donations during the final two months of the year. And while a majority of  annual giving ‘traffic’ comes during just one tenth of the year, few nonprofits bring on additional people or increase working hours to handle it. Most rely on an ‘all hands, on deck’ strategy to handle the flow. Over a five-to-six-week period, constant, urgent overwork leads to staff burnout, and very uncharitable feelings towards one’s fellow man.

Burnout Is Real

Holiday burnout is real and dangerous. It causes resentment and unhappiness in the short term, and chronic stress and high employee turnover over the long-term. The solution is self-awareness and self-care.

Self-Care Doesn’t Always Involve Cardigans

Maybe you think self-care involves mugs of hot tea, long cardigans and window seats? Or yoga, performed on the edges of cliffs overlooking the ocean? Or meditating in the lotus position, while breathing in essential oils? And it might, for some people. For others, it’s burgers with a friend, or a cheesy movie marathon. The good news is that self-care can be whatever makes you happy and at least a little healthy. Here are our top X self-care strategies for the holidays:

Ten Ways To Self-Care During the Holidays

  1. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself: self-care is not selfish! Care for yourself as you would any tool you use to make an impact on the world.
  2. Reinforce your good habits: your sleep hygiene, your technology use, and your exercise routine are important all year long. They’re even more important when you’re stressed. Don’t use the holidays or the demands of work to let your good habits lapse.
  3. Make a ‘not-to-do’ list: what would make you happy to not do this season? If there are activities, people or events that drain you instead of replenishing you, politely decline or avoid them. Be fiercely protective of your own joy and spirit.
  4. Get comfortable with saying ‘No’: you can’t do everything, and you’re not a bad person for accepting that reality. And don’t rely on elaborate excuses! ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
  5. Identify what gives you mental and physical energy and make it part of your life: this is different for each of us. Embrace what nurtures you, whether it’s naps, cat videos, a Die Hard movie marathon, or one of those seasonal, decadent Starbucks drinks.
  6. Schedule a ‘recharge’ activity at least 10 minutes every day: self-care isn’t just for weekends, either, so figure out how to work something happy and positive into each work day, too.
  7. Bring your co-workers on-board: help your teammates, who are sharing the holiday load with you, develop a self-care habit. Suggest a weekly team lunch, or a childhood Christmas photo display, or something the group can do to recharge together.
  8. Let go of should: there’s a fine line between tradition and obligation. The holidays are full of things we ought to do, because we’ve always done them. If something feels like work, and it’s not sparking joy, give yourself permission to let it go.
  9. Practice gratitude: a daily habit of finding something to be grateful for is proven to have both physical and mental health benefits.
  10. Give the gift of forgiveness: as Maya Angelou said, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” It’s the best form of self-care.

January Is Coming

Yes, December is your big month, but all the months of the year are important to the people you serve. There will always be more work to do! And January, when the phones won’t be ringing non-stop, is coming. Let’s face it, donor generosity during the holiday season is not a shock, it’s as regular as clockwork, so there’s no reason for surprise and disarray. Stay energized and functional for the New Year, for yourself and for your community.