Guest post by Jemilah Senter
A lot of people, myself included, subscribe to the notion that to love and care for others, we must first love and care for ourselves. Yet in practice, it seems that many of us, particularly in the mission-driven sector, can be rather neglectful when it comes to focusing on self-care, likely because we expend so much effort in caring for and supporting others.
Imagine that you are speaking with a client who you know could benefit from some words of encouragement. However, at that moment you are personally feeling quite negative, stressed, and otherwise not particularly positive. How difficult it is for you to make (fake) your way through that conversation? Think about how much easier that conversation would be if you felt positive and encouraged in your own skin. I think most would agree that it is much easier to project—to authentically project—positivity when you yourself are feeling positive.
In theory it seems like a no-brainer, but in practice, it takes a lot of intentional thought, discipline, time, and often change. In other words, you must commit to self-care, and you must act on that commitment.
To help my overall well-being, I eat (relatively) healthy and I exercise (somewhat) regularly. I have a membership at a fitness club but when I can’t make it I don’t beat myself up about it. Instead I try to get active in another way. Sometimes that’s finding a workout on YouTube that fits the amount of time I can spend. Other times I may take a walk, and other times I simply let it go with the knowledge that missing a workout or two here and there isn’t going to put me in the grave.
I also strive to maintain work-life balance. In my role, the work is literally never ending, I can’t think of a time that I’ve been truly “caught up” with nothing to do at work. But I know that to be well, I can’t regularly bring work home or let my growing to-do list give me anxiety and keep me up at night. The work will be there, but if I let the stress pile on, I may not. So, I do what I can, attempt to prioritize, manage expectations, and accept that I can’t do it all.
Finally, and probably most importantly, I live by the mantra “work hard, play twice as hard”. For me, that means spending time with friends and family, devoting thought and energy to my hobbies, and volunteering to make a difference for others outside of work.
Jemilah Senter is Director of Marketing and Communications at Illinois Action for Children, a nonprofit working to ensure that every child in Illinois — particularly those in need — have access to the resources to succeed in school and in life. Jemilah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.