Manage Your Stress through Volunteering

Different hands placed on construction beam

One of the last things you might think of doing when you are very stressed is to take the time to help someone else. But it can truly be the best thing you can do. I know this from my own personal experience.

Not too long ago, I was tired, frustrated and upset over a business issue. Heading home with my husband that night, we turned down our street. My husband said, “There’s a girl sitting on the corner crying.” We immediately stopped the car and I got out to talk to her. Turns out, she was working for one of those magazine sales companies where they drop off youths and pick them up at the end of the day. She had no phone and no money. Her ride was two hours late. So we called her manager from my cell phone and he said a ride was on its way. She waited in the car with us, shared her tragic life story, and when no ride arrived after 45 minutes, we turned around and drove her the half hour distance to her motel. When we arrived, I spoke to the manager about taking better care of this young woman (she was 20,) gave her some money and hugged her goodbye with some encouraging words. As we drove home again, all thoughts about my problems had completely vanished. My concerns were for her and how I could help others like her in the future. I realized my problems were far less pressing and there are those who are struggling to get by every day on the streets. It gave me a whole new appreciation of how fortunate I am.

That’s the value of volunteerism. It gives you instant perspective, awareness of how blessed your life really is, and it gets you out of the worry and anxiety of stress.

The Benefits of Volunteerism

There are several benefits of community service. It:

• promotes connection and sharing

• decreases stress and depression

• improves interpersonal skills

• enhances communication skills

• increases gratitude and empathy

• improves understanding of community issues1

• strengthens your ability to cope

• makes you feel good about yourself and your gifts

• increases how long you live2

• provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose

• strengthens the community

Next time you are stressed, think about all those less fortunate and instead of giving into depression, worry or fear, take some action. There are infinite ways to volunteer. Here are a few:

• mentor a child

• help a neighbor repair their home

• work at a soup kitchen

• walk a friend’s dog

• make a meal for someone in crisis

• be kind to a complete stranger

• help at a homeless shelter

• participate in a “clean up your park” project

• volunteer at an animal shelter

• read to seniors at a senior center or hospital

• collect diapers for newborn centers

• help out at an elementary school

• collect books for literacy programs and then read for them

• run a food drive for local food banks

• teach some craft or art skill to children or seniors

Volunteering has a huge impact on your health, longevity and stress levels. For me, it is absolutely one of the best instant stress relievers around, and you can do it at any time, any place, anywhere.

 

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

 

1. “National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating: The Benefits of Volunteering,” Canadian Centre for Philanthropy research Program, 2000 http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/volunteering/benefits.asp

2. “The Health Benefits of Volunteering,” Corporation for National & Community Service, from the Office of Research and Policy Development April 19, 2006

http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org/fileadmin/docdb/pdf/2007/07_0506_USAbenefits_health.pdf

 

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