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We all know that running a charity or social enterprise can be a particularly stressful experience. The plate spinning analogy comes to mind – if you face many competing demands on your time you may sometimes find it hard to cope.
Please note that if you are experiencing anxiety symptoms such as panic attacks, or frequent sleepless nights, you should consider seeking medical or other professional support.
Serves – staff and volunteers working in charities or social enterprises, or indeed any organisations
Preparation – acknowledge you need to take action, then time out to breathe and make a plan
Cooking time – a few months
- Personality test
- “Can’t control” and “Can control”
- long hard look
- strengths and weaknesses
- How you manage to reduce your stress will depend in part of your personality, what stresses you have and how you react to them. Try and assess your personality more objectively than you would normally do, by having an honest talk with a close friend, and avoid getting defensive if your friend gives you an honest appraisal!
- It may help in addition to carry out a personality test (e.g. Myers Briggs, see https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/home.htm?bhcp=1 You can do this yourself online but hiring a professional to help will increase accuracy
- Draw up a list of what is causing you stress, then split the list into two columns – stressors you can control and stressors you can’t. Be honest and realistic. What one person feels they can control, another one won’t, so your answers will be completely personal to you.
- Read your “can’t control” column. This in itself may be cathartic. The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things; you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. Work out if there are any aspects of this column that can be transferred to the “can control” column – or any action you can take to mitigate any of the issues (tackling a work issue you have been procrastinating over; going to your line manager or trustees to ask for help, support, additional resources, a review of priorities; training; organising a brainstorming meeting to focus on a difficult issue).
- In your “can control” column, work out how you can make changes. You may want to consider: delegating some of your work to other staff or volunteers; being more organised, productive or disciplined with your time; learning to say “no” when people ask you to do things for them; re-prioritising what projects your organisation has taken or wants to take on; outsourcing some of your organisation’s tasks such as HR, finance or IT; asking some of your trustees to help or recruiting trustees or other volunteers who have skills/time to support you in the short term; create and maintain boundaries around your working hours, the tasks you can realistically take on and achieve; breaking large tasks or projects into smaller steps which are more achievable.
- Consider self-care – are you taking it seriously? This includes: checking out whether your diet is healthy and balanced ( reducing caffeine can alone have a big impact); are you doing enough moderate physical exercise, particularly aerobic exercise (it encourages your brain to release the serotonin, which can improve mood); activities such as meditation or deep breathing exercises; yoga, Pilates, or the like, to help you unwind; or visualisation to replace negative thoughts and images with peaceful and positive ones; There are many online sources of advice, for example see the NHS Live Well pages. Spend time out to give your brain a break from the stressors – i.e. “me time”, saying “no” to some of the demands of other people; perhaps taking up a pastime or interest that gives you some respite
- If none of this shows signs of working after a few months, take a long hard look to decide if your stress is a short-term thing or whether you can see no end to it. If the latter is the case then maybe you should decide – after trying all of the above – whether you need a complete change of direction
- One way of doing this is to take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. List 10 of each. Force yourself to find all 10. It doesn’t matter if you think they are trivial. It may help you look at yourself more objectively. Some of the weaknesses you may also be able to change, bit by bit, one at a time, over a period. But remember no one can ever be perfect. You should appreciate yourself for who you are — faults, foibles, mistakes and all. Never set unrealistic expectations of yourself. Also try to stop comparing yourself to others, or judging yourself by what you think others expect of you.