Three Ways to Be Kind to Yourself this Holiday Season

Kindness, Happiness at work, Culture of Wellbeing, Primavera Strategies for Nonprofits

I know how busy you are right now.

As a nonprofit employee, you’re spending the holiday season focused on your mission and meeting your year-end fundraising goals.  You’re tired.  You wish you had more energy and time to spend with your family.

You wonder if you even have time to read this post!

I get it. I’ve been there, myself. That’s why I’m sharing important information for you to be happier at work during this crazy time. . . and my hope is you’ll feel happier at home too.

According to Emiliana Simon-Thomas at the Greater Good Science Center, there are four keys to being happier at work.  The first three are:  finding your purpose, feeling more engaged, and building your resilience.  I talked about each of these in previous posts this year.

What is one additional way you can feel happier at work?

Be Kind.

We each have our own definitions of “kindness.”  What does it mean for you?  The Greater Good Science Center describes kindness as building supportive social connections at work.  It’s important that we cooperate and enjoy a foundation of trust, with everyone from our clients to our board members.

I think that to be at our best with our co-workers, we must first give ourselves permission to be kind to ourselves.  This is often missing, at our own peril.  We rush from task to task, forgetting to breathe deeply.  We berate ourselves when we can’t handle everything that’s thrown at us.  We feel guilty we’re not better at juggling our work responsibilities and lose our cool at home.

When we can be kind to ourselves, then we can be even more kind to others – and then we’ll be happier at work.  Why is it important to be happy at work?  We’re more creative, more effective, and better problem-solvers.  In addition, when employees are happy, there’s less turnover and lower healthcare costs.  Everyone wins when you’re happier.

So let’s look at three important ways you can be kind to yourself, starting today.


Kindness, Culture of Wellbeing, Primavera, Danielle Collins, Wellness Coaching

1. Gratitude

Gratitude goes a long way when life is tough.  It helps us connect with something larger than ourselves.  Research shows gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness, better sleep, higher achievement, and more resilience.  Plus, we get along better with folks.

I heard an inspiring speaker on positive psychology, Dr. Paolo Terni.  He shared that to practice gratitude, we first must consciously notice that something is going well and think about what is working despite the chaos.

You can do this even on tough days, because there is always something that is meaningful, no matter how small.  Perhaps you’re grateful for your comfortable chair.  Or for the warmth inside your office during rainy days.

Second, attribute whatever is going well to someone else.  Who created central air and heat?  And thank goodness for electricity, as well.  We live in a time of miracles.

Third, express your gratitude to fully reap the benefits.  Thank you, Dave the maintenance guy, for taking care of this building and keeping us warm and dry.  You’ve just made Dave’s day!  Likewise, it feels good when you receive expressions of thanks (especially from your boss) and you likely will be more productive at work.

Here are some ideas for practicing gratitude:

  • Write a thank-you letter to someone who positively impacted your life. If you want, read the letter to that person.  Research shows this boosts their wellbeing.
  • Every night, think of three things you’re grateful for before bedtime.
  • Write in a gratitude journal each week what you’re thankful for.
  • When you catch yourself feeling depressed, run through the alphabet, thinking of something you’re grateful for from A to Z. For example:  I’m grateful for. . . the Aurora Borealis, Beethoven, Chocolate. . .
  • If you don’t have it in you to be grateful, you can pray, asking for the willingness to feel thankful.  Likewise, you can meditate to clear your mind and open yourself up to positive energy.
  • Find a rock or crystal you especially like.  Carry it with you, or set it on your desk as a reminder to take a few moments to feel thankful.

As a coach, I help my clients develop feelings of gratitude.  No matter what is going on around us, we can give thanks for some aspect of our lives.  If you’d like a free strategy session to find out how you can boost your wellbeing, click here.  Counting our blessings makes us more resilient and happier.

2. Mindfulness

When we focus on the present moment, we’re being mindful.  We stop thinking about the past and worrying about the future and focus instead on the now.

This frees us to experience our emotions with more clarity, and we realize these feelings are temporary.  They will pass.  We also closely observe our innermost thoughts, without judgment.

It’s no surprise that mindfulness is a great way to reduce our stress and anxiety at work.  Countless studies link mindfulness to better health and greater resilience.  Instead of projecting our fears about the future or berating ourselves, we observe the present moment – without trying to fix it.

How can you be more mindful?

Meditation is a great tool.  You might enjoy an exercise as simple as following your breath.  Or perhaps instead, focus your attention on your thoughts, without judging them as good or bad.  If you’re interested in Transcendental Meditation, you can focus on a phrase or mantra that resonates with you – “Om” or “Peace” are possibilities.

One of the things I like about these simple mindfulness exercises is that I can do them during the empty spaces of my life.  When I’m waiting for the elevator. . . when I’m waiting to board a plane. . . when I’m waiting for a meeting to begin. . . there are many opportunities throughout my day to pause and be silent.

I see a growing problem with how we fill our downtime, however.  Rather than embracing these empty spaces, we feel at odds with them, and we seek to fill them with distractions – like social media and our smartphones.

Our screens inhibit our mindfulness.  In fact, frequent users of social media are 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who use it more moderately throughout the week, according to a study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences.

Super-Cool Bonus Tips

What can you do today to feel less anxious (and more mindful)?

  • I challenge you to not grab your phone during the empty spaces of your life. I know from my own experience that this is tough, so start small, making it a fun experiment.  You may be the only one in the room not staring at your palm like the undead, but take heart.  You can fill these blank spaces with the unexpected, by enjoying deep breaths, paying attention to each of your five senses, and hearing your own intuition, without the distractions.
  • During meaningful conversations, keep your phone out of sight.  Research at the University of Essex shows that just having the phone on the table – not even in use – reduces empathy and trust.  The phones make it harder for us to give our undivided attention.
  • Create a policy that no cell phones are acceptable in meetings (unless there is an emergency unfolding).
  • Respect the needs of your team to rejuvenate at home, and do NOT email or text them after hours or on vacation. Healthy boundaries are important to create a culture of wellbeing.

3. Self-Compassion

The third way we can be kind to ourselves involves self-compassion.  Sometimes my clients share that they think they must be mean to themselves to be successful.

Yet the opposite is true.

Criticizing ourselves offers only the illusion of control.  When we’re kind and loving to ourselves, we can finally be at our best and experience joy and fulfillment.  Imagine being your own best friend – soothing yourself, speaking kindly to yourself, and knowing when to ask for help.

Ahhhhh. . . how wonderful. . .

The queen of self-compassion, Kristin Neff, presented a Ted Talk that you may enjoy.  She describes how important it is to remember our common humanity.  How does this apply to you, this holiday season?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, racing to meet year-end goals, remember that you’re not alone.  Whether or not people openly share their feelings, fundraisers and nonprofit staff around the globe are anxious and stressed.  Some of them will speak to themselves in unkind ways.

You have the opportunity to accept your feelings and then to comfort yourself.

Research on mindfulness practices shows that accepting our internal experience is a key way to reduce our stress.  What if, instead of feeling shame we’re overwhelmed at work, we feel self-compassion as we struggle?

Remember that acceptance is not about tolerating bad behavior at work.  It’s about accepting how you feel on the inside.  Imagine how loved you’ll feel, when you listen to yourself.

I wish you peace and happiness this holiday season.

You deserve it!

Danielle Collins, Coaching

P.S.  If you feel like hibernating, check out my previous post on how to enjoy a sacred pause this winter.

P.P.S.  Feeling overwhelmed and burned out?  I offer a free strategy session for folks who want to understand if coaching is right for them.