8 Tips for Nonprofits To Boost Resilience During A Pandemic

Our family with adopted senior rescue dog, “Tigger.”

Greetings from shelter in place California!  I have not left my house much in the last few weeks due to being in a higher risk category for COVID-19. If that wasn’t enough stress, I’m either living at work or working from home, along with my entire family. I realized after the first week, that I needed to gather every tool from my Happy Healthy Nonprofit toolkit to try to keep calm, focused, and positive.

If you are feeling COVID-19 anxiety,  you are not alone.  And, it is going to take some adjustments for us all as this piece by Prof. Aisha Ahmad in the Chronicle of Philanthropy points out. We have to not beat ourselves up if we are not as productive during a crisis – and this is not just a weather event. It will be a marathon.

Here’s a roundup of tips for building your personal resilience as you begin to accept how COVID-19 has changed our daily lives.

#1:  Get Enough Sleep, Nutrition, and Exercise

Focus on these three activities: sleep, nutrition and exercise to help strengthen your immune system and feel better.  I continue to use Fitbit to make sure I get daily 10K steps a day, but I’m giving myself permission to get in fewer steps as long I get outside everyday.  The blessing of shelter in place is that you can still exercise by walking, jogging, or running as long as keep your distance from other people. And as much as I want to binge eat all the ice cream in my freezer, I’m trying to avoid that and keep healthy food on my plate.

I’m trying to get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep per night to help me feel better, although I do admit that in the beginning I suffered from plague induced insomnia.

#2:  Practice Mental Distancing

The public health advice is to social distance, but we also need to mental distance from news and discussion about the virus.  You simply can’t obsess about every news report or the worst possible outcomes. I put myself on a news diet by only consuming one-hour of news a day to be informed enough to keep my family safe.  It is also important to practice information hygiene and consume news from trusted sources, especially medical information. Here’s some more tips on how to practice mental distancing.

#3 Socializing At A Distance

It is very hard not to be able to see family, friends, or co-workers in real life.  So, I’ve been experimenting with how to socialize at a distance using the technology. I’ve been using FaceTime or Zoom to go on virtual walks with people.  Lots of fun to show off our neighborhoods or our dogs.

In the workplace, nonprofits have experimenting with zoom and social activities.  TechSoup has been hosting a weekly themed Happy Hours with staff  Participants get to do a show & tell and of course bring their own beverage. Packard Foundation OE staff hosted a birthday party on Zoom. In addition to Happy Hours, your workplace can also host virtual coffee hours, watercolors, and more.

#4 New Workplace Norms for Meetings 

Since this crisis has unfolded, I have had to ask myself, what expectation of normal am I giving up today?  One of those expectations is that children, dogs, and cats should not be seen or heard on zoom calls.  I think we need to be more gentle with ourselves given that many people are juggling home-schooling with their work.   We have to replace this norm of pushing family away from the camera to this norm of welcoming them.

Here’s a fun process to establish meeting norms during a pandemic that can be done online.

In addition, given that we are all sitting in front of a screen for more and more hours, we need to make desk stretches and energizers norms for meetings as well. Here’s a simple set of desk stretches that you can do alone or as a group. Also, don’t forget to avoid eye strain by doing Eye Yoga exercises.

#5 Incorporate Quiet Time During Your Day

In times of uncertainty, we often get overwhelmed and don’t know what to focus on. As our routines change and we have to shift our behaviors or even the day-to-day tasks that we do, we also spend a lot of time switching between tasks, but not tackling any of them in a disciplined or intentional way. The result is that we feel that we are not accomplishing as much as we should be which adds to our feelings of anxiety and further contributes to our perception of a lack of control.

This resource provides lots of individual and organizational level tips for reducing anxiety.

I had to reclaim my morning routine of doing quiet activities that include stuff journaling, reading, or writing. I have also use that time to set my intention for the day. I use a chrome and firefox extension called Momentum that helps me maintain focus when online. (I’m not always successful or productive, but I’m getting better at it).

It is also helpful to set a regular routine if working from home is new to you.

#6 Focus On Positive Thoughts

Negative thoughts can influence how you feel, increase anxiety, or get in the way of getting things done.  Look for positives. Looks for blessings.  Ask yourself these questions or use them to check-in with your staff at the beginning of meetings.

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • How will I get outside today?
  • What is one thing that me laugh?
  • What beauty am I creating today?

There is a whole field of scientific research about the power of gratitude practice for not only individuals, but also in the workplace.  There are also lots of ideas for different rituals that your nonprofit can establish to help people keep positive.

#7 Tend & Friend & Spread Kindness

Caring for others or just checking in can help reduce stress. Do calls with friends and family, check-in on elderly neighbors ask them if they need anything.  There are lots of useful resources created by nonprofits to help facilitate kindness and mutual aid.  For example, GivingTuesday has a daily kindness text and email action alerts and you can download this kindness template and use it to check with neighbors.

One thing our family did was adopt a senior dog from Muttville, a local animal rescue. His name is Tigger and he has been a joy to add to our family.

Ask yourself everyday, who will I check in on? What can I do for others?  We are all in this together.

#8 Eat A Rainbow Everyday

My friend, John Haydon, who passed away from cancer last month, shared this one tip on how he remained optimistic in his book, Donor Care.  “Eat a rainbow.’  He was talking about eating a rainbow of healthy fruits and vegetables.

In our neighborhood, there are many families with young kids.  They have taken to using colored chalk and drawing rainbows on the sidewalks outside their house.  Other families walk by and they are counting rainbows.

We need to look at the rainbows yet to come at the end of this horrible nightmare.

What are your tips for personal resilience during a pandemic?

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