5 Ways to Take Breaks While Moderating Online Communities

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest.” — Alan Cohen

Don’t wait until you look like this to take a break!

Lately there’s a lot of talk about self care and how important it is (especially if you’re a millennial!), but self care is particularly crucial for those of us who are moderators in online communities.

Why? The special combination of skills the job requires — including, but not limited to: constantly making judgment calls when utilizing Community Guidelines, the feeling-fueled effort that goes into empathizing with community members, not to mention dealing with trolls — can really take its toll on a person.

It reminds me of a Seth Godin quote:

“Showing up with empathy is difficult, hard to outsource, and will wear you out. But it’s precisely what we need from you.”

When you’re moderating, stress is inevitable! BUT, I like to think that burnout is optional. How? You got it: self care.

Self care for moderators can take many forms. The basics of eating right, sleeping well, and exercising are obvious. What I want to focus on here is taking breaks during the workday. It’s counter-intuitive and easier said than done — especially for those of us who are drawn to online community work!

We all hear the advice to step away from the computer for a few minutes every so often, but how often do we actually follow through on that? If the standard tips to get up and stretch or go for a walk feel lackluster to you, or don’t inspire you to actually tear yourself away from your work, enter: my top 5 ways to take a break!

  1. LOL! The suggestion to find something to laugh about may be cliched, but that’s because it works. Laughing, like music, literally changes your brain chemistry. So: call your funniest friend, watch a YouTube clip of a hilarious standup comic, check out a meme god’s latest content (my personal go-to is Tank Sinatra). Find something that brings you the type of joy that only laughter can.
  2. Create a “Woohoo! File” My college career counselor gave me this idea years ago and I’ve used it at every job since. Basically: keep a file of the emails that made you smile (the file can be digital or hard copy). When you’re having a tough day, take a few minutes to look through this file to remind you why you do what you do.
  3. Interact IRL! When was the last time you spoke face-to-face with an actual person? Has it been hours? Days? Halt, at once! Make a quick call to a friend, or if you work in an office do a lap to the metaphorical water cooler and strike up a conversation with someone you enjoy. If you can’t connect with anyone you know at that moment, go walk for a coffee and make conversation with the cashier! If they’re not busy, they, too, might appreciate a bit of conversation outside the regular “I’ll have a Grande” they usually hear.
  4. Get Meta! If you’re not already in one, jump into a community for community professionals! (See? So meta!) You can take a (productive!) brain break by checking out the group’s latest news, events, or convos. When I get run down in the trenches, it really brightens my day to switch my focus towards a group of my peers who are grinding like me! The conversations raise my energy levels — even after just a minute or two of interacting! My personal favorite groups are the CMX Slack and CMX Facebook groups, and MyCommunityManager’s monthly Friday afternoon Twitter chat, CMGRHangout.
  5. Art for art’s sake. Make something beautiful— and know it doesn’t have to be for any purpose and you don’t need to use it for anything besides the sheer delight it brings you in creating it. When I need a creativity break my go-to thing to do is make infographics! (Isn’t everybody’s?) Honestly though, if you’ve never used Piktochart, you haven’t lived. Also, Buffer has a really cool program called Pablo where you can design quotes on beautiful images, which is another break-time activity I love. You can make something gorgeous in two minutes! But it doesn’t just have to be visual art — it can be anything that “makes you happy to be alive”, to borrow from one of my picture-quotes. ;)
A good quote gets me every time.

Welp, those are my top five! Let me know if you use these already, or any tips you want to share!

Happy moderating!