Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Implementing Well-Being Practices in Your Organization Benefits The Organization, The Movement, and Recognizes Our Humanity. 

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After surviving cancer, managing depression, and what feels like a perpetual string of life challenges I currently live my life in a perpetual state of self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-improvement. That sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? It is, but so is running on this rat wheel of life… striving to be the best at your job, striving for more money, striving to “fix” these awful institutions and systems. Let’s not forget the striving to check all the boxes “they” said you should i.e., a college degree (s), a spouse, 1.5 kids, and a house etc. I am confident that all this striving, in concert with systemic misogynoir, is aiding in the demise of Black Women. We die at higher rates of all the things… heart disease, breast cancer, pregnancy/childbirth, and more.  

My response to fighting against this was to make a pact with myself to focus on my mind, body, and spiritual well-being. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I took inventory of my life and realized the stress I allowed myself to endure in the name of advocating for others was going to kill me. My education and good sense told me the key to feeling and being better was taking care of myself, and also knowing when to reach out to others when I needed help and care I couldn’t manage alone. 

Having the knowledge that nourishing the body, mind, and spirit is the key to optimal health, I began to cultivate a life that made it my daily focus. I knew that if I radiated well-being, I could inspire others to do the same. That is what gave me the vision to evangelize the benefits of incorporating well-being into the culture of nonprofit advocacy and electoral spaces.  What does that mean exactly? It means that I fervently encourage decision makers in those spaces to create living breathing policies that promote health, wellness, and stress management into the workplace that comes in the form of both policy and practice. 

The nonprofit space is full of folks who have burn-out, compassion fatigue, and general malaise. The amazing people, who many times simply just can’t handle any more trauma in a space that doesn’t fully account for how hard the work can be, often check out and don’t come back. And, with their exit, we lose their wisdom, passion, connections, and creativity. This is harmful not only to the people in the movement but to the movement itself. We can’t have sustainable and viable campaigns for change, if those most dedicated are too weary to carry on and no one takes the time to address the problem.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Organizational leaders should view and treat their staff as human beings with full lives. As people who have families, interests outside of work, and the same life challenges everyone encounters. They should view them as people who are worthy of care and empathy. They should remember also that those who find their way to the non-profit social change world, are also generally very empathetic people and so may be more sensitive to the pain and suffering they may encounter when working in the field with their members or broader communities. It’s a no-brainer for nonprofit environments to embrace such transformations for the benefit of both their staff and progressive movement. And evidence shows that employers who implement well-being practices have lower rates of turn-over, sick day usage, and higher productivity. 

Some basic examples of resourced support for staff include, but are not limited to: stress management tools and/or training; providing mental health resources like counseling/therapy or trauma informed workshops, and exploring nutrition options with professionals. In addition, I have had the opportunity to assess, provide survey data, and create “resilient practice” calendars for organizations. Resilient practice may include: 

  • Yoga (movement)
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Coping skills for stress

The key to a successful resilience practice is for an organization to commit to integrating it into their culture. In addition to individual employees interacting intentionally with their own well-being.

Join Riverwise via Zoom For Yoga Thursdays at 10:30 am! 

I will be entering a half-century of life soon. In 2021 I quit my decade-long position, I ended a long-time relationship, became a certified yoga instructor, and have dug deep for personal growth. It was and is all very scary stuff. However, everything I have experienced in life has led me to share why focusing on mind, body, and spirit well-being is key to our survival as individuals and as members of a movement for equity and justice. I look forward to working with more organizations in the future to ensure our survival.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde

Nikhol J. Atkins’ holds a B.S. in Healthcare Systems Administration, an M.A. in General Administration (with a concentration in Strategic Leadership), an M.A. in Spirituality, Culture & Health, and a graduate certificate in Approaches to Spirituality & Healing.  She is an active proud member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has spent over 20 years working as a community, political, and union organizer with a focus on leadership development. Nikhol has served in many roles, including Community & Political Outreach for AFT Michigan, Senior Strategist for the Warren for President campaign, State Director of Reform Immigration for America, Community Organizer at Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Outreach Manager for the Center for Progressive Leadership, Base Vote Organizer for the Michigan Democratic Party, Community Liaison for Congressman Sander Levin, and has held multiple leadership positions with the NAACP at the local and state level. Supporting and encouraging Black women and people of color is everything to Nikhol, especially when it comes to their well-being. She currently resides in Southern Oakland County and enjoys traveling and honing her practice as a yoga teacher. Visit her website at