Breaking the Stress Cycle: Burnout Relief for Grant Writers and Fundraisers

We’re all just walking each other home— Rumi   (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmi)


For most nonprofit and local government workers, there’s a “normal” stress level. Raising funds against growing needs, and often decreasing sources of revenues. Then comes family life–young children, older parents, loneliness, or too much togetherness.  Now we all share additional layers of stress from the COVID-19 pandemic,  the growing recession, the ongoing struggle against racism, and climate change. 


 Did your blood pressure and breathing rate increase as you read the first paragraph? I know mine did as I listed out these stressors. It’s enough to give anyone a case of extra crispy, fried burnout. The kind that makes you feel like one more thing added to your to-do list would break you, even as you know there is more important work to do. 


In the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast, we talked with Emily and Amelia Nagoski about the cycle of stress, its physical effects, and how to truly care for our selves and others. In Burnout:  Breaking the Stress Cycle and their new podcast “The Feminist Survival Project 2020,” they bring research and humor to bear on these thorny issues. 


As humans, we are still wired to respond to stress as if saber-toothed tigers and wooly mammoths still roamed the land.  That’s when a healthy stress response would have kept you from being something’s dinner—very helpful! 


And very different from the ongoing, unchanging stresses of modern life.  


Instead of one giant, hungry tiger, a thousand needles of conflict, large and small, rain down on us every hour of every day. All the “self-care” in the world can’t insulate you against this constant onslaught.


Don’t get me wrong; I am not opposed to home facials, binge-watching, or other simple pleasures. But according to the Nagoskis, these actions aren’t the panaceas you may have thought. Their book includes at least a dozen researched-based solutions that may surprise you. One of the first, and one that has made the most difference to me since the pandemic began, is physical movement.  I can hear your groans from my hermit hideaway, AKA, my office in the guest bedroom. But hear me out.


At least 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity each day can help your body and brain get the feeling that you’re actually moving yourself away from danger and stress. That stress response center in your brain doesn’t really distinguish between a saber-toothed tiger or a gaping shortfall in your organization’s budget. 


Take a walk, and take a listen to our interview with the Nagoski sisters, who help us tackle difficult subjects with truth, laughter, and song.  They’ll help you understand the deeper layers to truly and healthily moving through the troughs and crests of the storms of stress that buffet us all. 


Right now, I can’t visit loved ones who are hospitalized. I can’t hug my magnificent co-host Amanda Day, or even share a studio with her. I can’t sit down side by side with my friends, or visit my aunt during a time when she could really benefit from family around her. What I can do is drop off food, call and write friends and family, support black-owned businesses such as independent book stores, and get my Zoom face on for book clubs, concerts, and church services.  These simple actions take me off the hamster wheel on fire that is my brain on stress.  My wish is that you find those things that help you. 


At least twice a day, I read the front of a card that a dear, wise woman sent to me last fall.  It hangs on my refrigerator door as a reminder that compassion for ourselves and others is the truest self-care. The Sufi poet Rumi, from the 13th century, knew the score.  It’s his quote that gets me through my stress cycles: “We’re all just walking each other home.” I’ll see you there.



DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 3 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 & 2 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

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