In spite of the joy and celebration that holidays bring, they can also be demanding, exhausting, and take a lot out of us. Simply put they can be stressful. For nonprofit organizations, who are dedicated to making the holidays safe, secure and special for their clients, there may be extra worries that take a toll emotionally and physiologically. Many nonprofit staff and volunteers are truly heros or angels, giving so much to help others during this season. Yet kindness to others is not the whole answer. We also need to practice self-kindness, and January is a great time of the year, as agencies launch new initiatives, to remember the value of self-compassion and make it a priority too.
Brain research has shown that being kind is good for the body. David Hamilton, PhD, has written numerous articles about the “Helpers High”. The mapping of brain patterns shows that when people give to others and are kind - showing empathy and compassion- the chemical Oxytocin is released. It has been the called the chemical of emotional connection. And studies show that people who release the most oxytocin are happier. This hormone has also been shown to boost the immune system and enable people to manage stress better. And Hamilton’s research points out that kindness gives us healthier hearts and can even slow aging.
Being kind to SELF is an extension of this process. Giving to self is interwoven with giving to others. The reality is that the positive benefits to the body from giving to others, is negated by too much cortisol in the body. And what produces cortisol--- STRESS! Lack of self-care and self -compassion that may look like burnout from providing for others, is one of the prime contributors to stress. The key is more than coping with stress by engaging in positive physical behaviors, such as exercise, massage, and healthy eating. It also needs to include changing our internal self-talk, which inhibits self-compassion. Thiscan sometimes be the hardest to change.
So in 2016 if you are in the nonprofit or cause -driven world that already gives so much to others, start giving back to yourself:
1. Cut yourself some slack – don’t be a perfectionist.
2. Focus of what you do well, and celebrate your strengths.
3. Forgive yourself if and when you make a mistake… these are just learning opportunities. And if you screw up, apologies are ok. You don’t always have to be right.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others. You have your own journey.
5. Be patient with yourself, and don’t set expectations that are unreasonable.
6. Remember your path may have detours. It’s o.k. to veer, wander, stray.
7. Don’t worry about the past or future… that is wasted time. Rather feel proud of what you do each day.
8. Slow down, smile, connecting with your feelings in a positive way.
9. Focus on the emotion of hope and gratitude when you are feeling down or depressed.
10. Give yourself permission to enjoy the moment of spontaneity. It’s not always about reaching a goal!
Harmer Collaborative has a wonderful workshop for your staff about Self-Kindness. It includes an individual quiz that helps staff understand the degree of self-compassion they have. And provides practical ways staff and volunteers can increase self-compassion… in order to give to others. Call Mary Anne at 503-708-9239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. It is a New Years gift they will thank you for.