It might seem like an odd question to ask because it doesn’t feel right when you’re stressed to start adding yet another demand on yourself and your time.
Yet, the path to recovery from stress is not just about learning to manage time better, learning to set priorities and learning to say “No”.
It’s also about learning to see and do things differently.
And it works!
According to CSA, a UK Volunteering Charity:
- 63% of 25-34 year olds report that volunteering helps them feel less stressed.
- 71% of volunteers who offer their professional skills and experience to others say volunteering helps combat depression.
- 62% of over 65’s say volunteering reduces stress.
Volunteering is such a good stressbuster because it gives a new perspective on things. It’s also ideal to develop life skills in a safer environment.
Volunteering Helps Put Things In Perspective
Often, we sweat the small things. We make these small things so big that they’re hard to escape.
Volunteering gives you the possibility to forget your problems for a while.
You’ll focus your mind on something else, helping a cause, helping others.
By trying to solve other people’s problems you might even see solutions to your own problems.
You might also realize just how lucky your own situation is and start feeling grateful for all the positive things in your life.
By making a positive impact in others’ lives, you’ll feel better about yourself and will start developing a more positive attitude.
Volunteering Helps You Develop New Life Skills In A Safer Environment
I’ve been volunteering myself for many years. I really started when I took a break from work to look after my children.
I volunteered to help the school parents committee. At first it felt like a good way to meet other parents.
Then I got asked to do things I’d never done before: asking companies and shops for raffle prices, organizing entertainment for the children, for the parents, negotiating prices, selling ads, running an after-school club, creating the committee’s website…
I put a lot of effort into each project because that’s how I am, I want to do things well. But there were no expectations put on me by other people. Had I failed, it wasn’t the end of the world.
It taught me to be able to get on and work with people with completely different skills, backgrounds and levels of commitment (you can’t force other people to volunteer!). It made me a hundred times more sociable and far better at networking than I’d ever been in my work life. I became more confident at negotiating. I also learned to manage conflicts in a positive way.
I surprised myself at being able to do so many different things successfully. It definitely boosted my confidence.
But I also saw along the way people for whom volunteering became a negative and stressful experience. It was sad and could have been avoided.
Tips To Make Volunteering A Positive Experience
To draw the most out of networking, you need to have the right attitude.
- Pick a cause that really motivates you
When issues arise (as they’re bound to from time to time), you’ll go through them remembering it’s for a good cause and it’s all worth it.
- Avoid cliques and gossip. Be friendly with everyone. Don’t have a personal agenda. Don’t take things personally.
Often egos take over and conflicts arise. Don’t get drawn in but help resolve conflicts in a constructive way. Remember it’s not work, it’s voluntary and not worth worrying too much about.
- Only promise to do what you can. But deliver on it.
You must remain realistic about how much time you can commit. If you over-commit, you’ll start resenting it and will probably let yourself, your family or the committee down. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty that you don’t commit enough. Do what you promise to do, do it well and be proud of what you achieve. You’ll be known as reliable and an asset to have on the team.
- Remember everyone is a volunteer. Don’t put expectations on others.
In the same way you don’t want people to make you feel guilty about your level of commitment, don’t do it to others. Don’t micromanage them. Be gentle with your reminders if they forget things. Say Thank you.
- Put some fun into it.
Make it fun and social and not just about delivering results.
- Remain positive and upbeat until it’s time to move on.
After you’ve been doing it some time, your interest and enthusiasm will probably wane and you might become negative and blasé. Be honest about it. Hand over properly and move on to something else.