Volunteering as a great form of self-care - Social Good Connect

Volunteering as a great form of self-care

17 June 2021

The term ‘self-care’ is bandied about a lot these days. And it means something slightly different to everyone. More often than not, it seems to be used as a tool to sell treats and luxury spa packages – murkying the water of what effective self-care actually is.

And as much as we’d love to qualify shopping sprees, facemasks and takeaways as ‘self-care’, that could just be wishful thinking.

Nonetheless, people and their employers are beginning to appreciate the role it plays in safeguarding our wellbeing and are looking into alternative ways to be more mindful of our mental health.

So what is self care and why is it important?

Self-care involves taking an active role in protecting your own mental health and wellbeing in the long-term. It’s about taking an honest, introspective look into your habits and thinking about what gives you energy, what drains your energy, and what protects it. It’s less about spending money on pamper packages and more about taking actions that will support your wellbeing in the long run: cooking healthy meals, cleaning your home, taking a long walk to get outside and moving, finally tackling some of those small tasks that you keep putting off.

Self-care is the exact opposite of instant gratification. It’s about taking measures that will have a positive effect over time. We’re talking about the big picture here, so as you start your self-care journey, a good measure of self-awareness might be in order!

It’s important to practice good self-care because it promotes emotional resilience, and sets you up with habits that make good mental health sustainable. Volunteering comes with a range of benefits that you might never have considered.

Volunteering as a form of self-care

When you give your time up to do something good for others, it brings a unique sense of fulfillment that you only get from doing something kind, as many of our volunteers and co-workers often tell us.

Lorraine Smith VolunHeroes
‘It’s rewarding to know I’m making a small contribution towards a positive change, making things a bit better for people or simply just helping.Lorraine Smith, Project Manager DC Thomson

Acting in a way that benefits others or the community around you can give you a sense of purpose that’s beyond  the 9-5. With strong links between purpose and physical health, volunteering can help to reframe your outlook on your life and can even help you develop better emotional recovery from setbacks.

Helping others in need hits many of the key requirements of good self-care. It often gets you out of the house and interacting with others, it helps provide a shift in perspective, and it gives a warm, fuzzy buzz of dopamine when you know you’ve done a good thing. And it doesn’t matter what type of volunteering you do, the mental health benefits are the same whether it’s making drop offs for your local food bank, or acting as a virtual trustee for a charity.

Volunteering is also proven to reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm, decreases the risk of depression, and reduce the feeling of isolation.

Studies have shown that the brain experiences a spike in feel-good hormones after volunteering. It can provide new skills that can help you in your working life, or conversely it can provide a step away from the everyday stress and pressure of your role and alleviate some of the anxieties you might experience. If a step away from work is what you’re after, try opportunities that connect with nature or the local community – getting out and about can really help.

Creating links with your community is a great way to combat the isolation that the pandemic has brought about. Building relationships with people over a good cause is a great way to bring about positive effects for your mental health and wellbeing as a whole.

Volunteering as self-care – for others

Community care is a different way of looking at self-care. It considers the needs of others, and how by servicing them you are becoming their selfcare. Often, people that need self-care the most might not have the ability to act on it. People who are working multiple jobs, or are marginalised in some way may not have the capacity to think about doing anything extra. And that’s where you can come in!

Instead of thinking about the cause, think about the individuals you can help in their day-to-day lives. Altruism is a great way to bring meaning into your life, and adds to that sense of purpose.

Not just personal benefits: volunteering for professional development

Aside from reducing stress and giving you that feeling of accomplishment, volunteering can reward you with a fresh sense of perspective that you can use in both your personal and professional life. With business advisory roles, video editing, or trustee positions, there’s endless opportunities to develop new skills and use them to help you with your professional career. 

Approaching a new set of responsibilities in different roles can test your ability to work to challenges in a different environment. Volunteering may give you that lightbulb moment that enables you to overcome that hurdle at work, or put those anxieties at ease by giving you a sense of grounding.

The best part is that it doesn’t have to be face-to-face, with a variety of virtual volunteering roles, not only can you fit volunteering around your schedule, there’s the added benefit that you can choose to volunteer with a charity in any location. So why wait?

Read about the impact that volunteering has had on volunteers here.

Want to find out more?

If you’d like to learn more about volunteering as a form of self-care for either yourself or your employees then please get in touch with us to find out how we can help you make employee volunteering simple.

Or join our community here to receive monthly updates about all things purpose, social responsibility and employee volunteering.

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