Nonprofit organizations are givers: we recruit like-minded staff and volunteers who give and give until they are spent. All too often burnout leads to poor performance and high staff turnover. However, reframing self-care as self-defense can help us to prioritize our people and protect our organizations.

What’s the best self-defense move?

That’s our first question we ask at my youth and family-focused, martial arts nonprofit when starting a new program or self-defense workshop.

We hear similar answers from youth and adults. “Knee to the groin.” “Run.” “Poke their eyes out.” “Sweep the leg.”

Our follow-up questions (as the title to this article gives away) make our students reconsider: How many hours did you sleep last night? What did you eat yesterday? What’s your stress level? Often, our students object to the trick question but it still helps them understand the point.

Our physical state influences our mental state and our mental state impacts our physical well-being. How we are able to best defend ourselves from any given threat depends upon how well both our bodies and minds can perform together in that moment. Creating conditions in which we are strong, focused, and balanced is self-care. And practicing self-care is the foundation of self-defense.

When we think about self-defense, we often focus on reaction: Someone’s about to punch you in the face and you need to do something because taking the hit will hurt. Without self-care, you’re choosing to take the hardest hit. With self-care, you can take more hits or, even better, see the hit coming in time to block and move. You increase your ability to respond to a threat with competence, confidence, empathy, and hope.

As leaders in the nonprofit world, here are a few things we can do to begin to implement self-care as self-defense.

  • Take care of your people.

You must balance different needs, wants, roles, and responsibilities to encourage individual self-care while at the same time not making it just another task that keeps your people from other tasks.

  • Communicate

Creating a culture of self-care involves demonstrating that you understand the issues impacting your team.

  • Plan and practice.

In November, we plan for an icy Wisconsin winter in our self-defense classes with added focus on how to fall properly to minimize the chances of breaking arms and heads. We practice so that our responses are almost automatic.

Read the full article about the importance of self-care by Maryfrances Palmisano  at Blue Avocado.