Taking care of self

22 Dec

When the opportunity to participate in the Ally Snapshot blog came around, I jumped at the chance. I thought of it as an opportunity to speak about all the exciting and uplifting activities I have been and will be partaking in as a Public Ally. I had grandiose thoughts of writing one charmingly hilarious and intrinsically insightful blog post a day. I would post videos of my Ally class having fun team-building days. I would post pictures of volunteers working hard with smiling faces. There are days that those things absolutely do happen. However …

As the holidays creep closer (probably over by the time you are reading this) I can feel a certain kind of sadness in the air. The service project that my team of Allies is working on focuses on the subject of genocide. We are working with The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. The project is broken into two phases, the first being to locate and gather testimonies of genocide survivors, the second phase being to create a curriculum to complement these testimonies. According to the Center, as a result of this project,

“(The Center) will be able to educate about the staggering number of genocide victims since the Holocaust and its continued impact…this education is crucial in building strong schools and communities, and ensuring that students are empowered to stand up against hate and prejudice.”

My team and I have been researching and discussing genocide for weeks. This subject manner can get very emotionally intense and has a high potential to set off trauma triggers (triggers are experience that trigger a traumatic memory). Because of this, I am incessantly reminding my team to “take care of self.”

When I say to “take care of self” I mean take time to create balance in your life. I am finding that the importance of taking care of self is oftentimes overlooked when working for a nonprofit (note: even as I write this I am struggling with using sentences that won’t sound “too selfish”). This is true with any job that someone is passionate about, but nonprofit workers are especially notorious for ignoring this advice.

I want to make sure that my team begins the habit of creating strategies of self-care that work for them. If we are to continue the work we do, and if we want to stay committed to the issues we are passionate about, we also need to be committed to ourselves and the relationships around us.

I have found my ways to take care of self in my personal life away from Public Allies, and I have found ways to take care of self within my Public Ally community. I turn to my other 2nd-year Public Allies to help me with that. Special shout-out to Christina for being my service project facilitating partner.

Three of the five second-year Public Allies in Cincinnati: Christina, AJ, me

How do you feel about taking care of self? Have you ever experienced burnout? Have you ever felt “selfish” for taking time off? What strategies do you use?

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2 Responses to “Taking care of self”

  1. macarthura December 23, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    You’re absolutely right that taking care of self is important. One of my favorite trainers from my time at PA Chicago is Pamela Bozeman-Evans, who used the simple analogy – “Remember when they give you instructions on the airplane to put the oxygen mask on yourself first…Even before helping the person next to you.” In some ways, it’s common sense — if you can’t take care of yourself, how can you possibly be of the best service to others. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the work.

    For the past two years, I’ve recommitted to my own physical fitness and well-being and joined a local CrossFit gym. It’s not only helped me get in better shape, but it’s also a great community of like-minded folks. Also, by doing a super challenging workout, I learn alot about myself – namely, that I have alot of doubting voices in my head sometimes, and that just by focusing on the present I can do almost anything. It’s being in these other spaces outside of work that have not only nurtured me, but also provided me key lessons to take back into the workplace.

    Stay balanced, yo’.

    • imdelgado March 21, 2012 at 11:10 am #

      Love that oxygen mask analogy!

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