It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write an article for my column, and I want to focus on why that happened. You see, I find that so many people in the nonprofit world work way too many hours for way too little money – same as entrepreneurs in the startup phase – and many of us risk being overwhelmed to the point where we are not productive.
As an example, I almost singlehandedly put on a major event last fall, which meant 90 hour workweeks and eating take out (vegetarian and as organic as possible but, still, takeout). My apartment was a mess, I wasn’t meditating, I stopped exercising and socializing. All I did was work. And don’t get me wrong – I love to work. I love sitting at my computer for hours and hours on end, developing programs and marketing Change Food’s work, connecting with people and so on, but I’ve realized that when we lose balance in our lives, we risk stress, fatigue, depression, and, worse case scenario – we even risk burnout.
People often throw the word “burnout” around like it’s a state of mind, but it’s much more than that. It’s a physical, and possibly debilitating, condition. According to Psychology Today, burnout is “a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment”
After my event ended, I found myself fatigued to the point where I could barely get out of bed and was lethargic, anxious, depressed and even began to wonder what the point of all this work is. Those are all telltale signs of burnout.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been redefining my nonprofit’s strategy, looking at where I want to take Change Food and how both I and the program can be most effective. With the explosion of interest in food and all the individuals and groups coming into the food space, I want to make sure my work is as effective as possible.
My first reaction was to work even harder, to work 20 hours a day, to not give up and push on through, but over the past couple weeks, I’ve rethought my strategy. The constant work seems to be making me less productive and less creative, so what is piling on more work going to do – except lead to even worse burnout?
It might not make sense to learn to work less hours, but that is my new strategy. I am going to force myself to log off at a certain time and minimize how many hours I work on weekends. I will begin meditating again, and exercising, and eating right – I will start to focus on creating a sustainable life for myself.
It doesn’t make sense to me that so many of us are working toward a better world, a better food system, to end hunger and poverty – we are all working toward a sustainable future – yet we forget to live a sustainable life.
So, this changes today. Today, I declare that I am not just working toward a sustainable food system, I am also building a sustainable life for myself. I plan to chronicle my journey to real sustainability and see how it relates to my work and what Change Food grows into. I hope you will join me on this journey and also share your thoughts and experiences.
Now I have a puzzle to go work on – and a book to read….Happy weekend!
Diane Hatz is the Founder & Executive Director of Change Food. She strives to create a healthy food system for all by developing programs, events and resources for individuals and groups changing the food system from the ground up. Join her on March 27th for a benefit dinner at Lighthouse restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Can’t join? Bid in the online auction.