Looking After Yourself: How To Prevent Volunteer Fatigue

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Volunteering for a charitable organization can be incredibly rewarding.  For evidence of that, just ask the 38% of British people who did so in 2018. No matter how worthwhile a cause, however, there can be a lot of stress involved.  In order to get the most out of the experience, for both yourself and the organization you’re helping, it’s necessary to manage stress and prevent burnout. To stay in a proper mindset, here are a few tips to remember the next time you’re feeling fatigued while on the job.

Take a Breath

Doing volunteer work can be overwhelming at times, just like any other job.  It’s necessary to take a step back and recognize when you are becoming stressed. If you begin to develop a headache, notice your temper shortening or feel muscles tightening, it might be time to take a deep breath, quite literally. Meditation and deep breathing is a great way to alleviate anxiety, and can be done during a short break. Start by closing your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Couple this with some stretching to reduce muscle tension, and you’ll be in much better shape to make a difference.

Remember That You’re Just One Person

People get involved in volunteer work for an array of reasons, but nearly everyone has one underlying goal: to create tangible change in the world. Those who are particularly motivated will spend countless hours trying to make a difference and can become frustrated if they feel they are not making an impact. One person cannot shoulder the burden of changing the world for the better, and it can be easy to slip into a self-flagellating mindset when tackling a seemingly insurmountable problem.

When volunteering, it’s vital to remember that you are just one person working in a group and that you alone are not responsible for changing the world.  

Set Achievable Goals

A good way to prevent slipping a negative mentality is to set small, achievable goals for yourself. While you might not be able to solve the issue of food insecurity for the poor in your community, you can prepare one hundred meals in a day to hand out to the needy. Even though you might be upset that you can’t help more, you’re making a huge difference for those one hundred people you fed, and that’s far more than most can say.

Perhaps the best way to reduce stress while volunteering is to remember why you wanted to get involved in your chosen cause. Whether you’re walking dogs at an animal shelter, preparing meals at a soup kitchen or cleaning a public park, there is a reason why you decided to devote your time to the cause. It’s because you want to help, and the societal benefits of what you are doing outweigh any potential monetary gain. By remembering that, you’ll be able to put what you’re doing in perspective and keep going.

Written by Jane Kitson

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