Tools for you: LIFTERS!
On a personal level, you can engage in the following activities to mitigate the negative impacts of chronic-stress, vicarious trauma, and burnout.
The MOST important thing to focus your brain power on is giving yourself permission to take micro-actions, explore, test-out, and keep your wellness simple. No need to join a membership gym, no need to go gluten-free, and so forth (although those things are useful).
1 | Trees: Literally being in nature or as close as possible (e.g. sitting among trees, surrounding your work space with images of nature, etc.) can improve health by reducing stress (i.e. improved mood and reduced blood pressure); there are many benefits to this tree-stress reduction experience including improved immune function.
3 | Sick Days: Use your sick days even if you’re not all that sick (i.e. “they’ll be fine without you” in the span of your lifetime); in service work, so many professionals don’t use their sick days and/or wait until they can’t move out of bed to decide to use those days. Also, when you’re sick use sick days because its associated with better selfcare.
4 | Wellness services and retreats: Shop around for cost and quality. Here’s our wellness opportunities. Using ours as a guide, you can explore more wellness services online. Look for certified practitioners who take you through learning innovative, research-based wellness activities.
At your job or volunteer site, there are things that you can do to support the organization in becoming wellness conscious. Whether the organizational leadership “gets it” or not, the following actions make a big difference for you and your future colleagues.
1 | Write an authored or anonymous letter to organizational leadership that describes the workplace chronic stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and/or burnout. Education them on the science and provide examples of immediate solutions by providing hyperlinks to relevant articles. Use language that include phrasing like this: “I observe and hear from colleagues about their low energy levels and struggles to maintain love for their work due to the stress and trauma that is part of their work. This is also my experience. This is not unique to our organization; research shows that inside and outside of the nonprofit sector, many professionals suffer from work-related stress. However, in the nonprofit sector, we are especially vulnerable to this suffering.”
2 | Volunteer to do research for the organizational leadership on cost-effective solutions for the organization to support the wellness of staff.
3 | Look for grant opportunities for capacity building and include arguments in the grant application about why staff wellness equates with capacity building. You can even ask your local community foundation to give you tips on finding such grant opportunities.
4 | Find local researchers at universities and centers who would like to work with your staff team pro bono on creating an organization that promotes and supports wellness.
Across the country, chronic stress and burnout are all too common. This is even more heightened in the nonprofit sector. There are simple actions that you can take to contribute to a more beautiful and healthy sector for yourself and future badasses.
1 | Write an authored or anonymous letter to funders, describing the workplace chronic stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and/or burnout. Education them on the science and provide examples of immediate solutions. Like with orgnization-based letters described above, provide hyperlinks to relevant research and be clear about what the toll looks like for professionals with a real life example.
2 | Write an authored or anonymous letter to professional associations (e.g. Council of Nonprofits), describing the workplace chronic stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and/or burnout. Review the blogs and news on the associations website to see where they stand with an understanding of job-specific strain. If needed, education them on the science and provide examples of immediate solutions. As before, provide hyperlinks to relevant research and be clear about what the toll looks like for professionals with a real life example.
3 | Present at local, regional, and national professional conferences on this topic. Take on the role of ambassador for communicating the true cost of unaddressed chronic stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and/or burnout. If not you, who? Don’t wait for a “specialist.”