International Volunteer Day

International Volunteer Day 2023

At BUSY Health, on International Volunteer Day (5th December) we honour and celebrate the volunteers that make our community a better place. It’s estimated that 5.8 million Australians or 31 per cent of the population are involved in volunteering, making an estimated annual contribution of $290 billion to our economic and social good.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Being a volunteer has lots of benefits, bringing meaning and purpose to lives by providing:

  • feelings of accomplishment, achievement, purpose and self-worth;
  • a sense of feeling a part of a community;
  • a conduit to give back while enhancing your own self-esteem and confidence;
  • opportunities to share talents and learn new skills; and
  • greater connection and a sense of being valued by others.

Recognising the Impact of Stress on our Volunteers

While volunteering is overwhelmingly a positive pursuit, it can at times become stressful. These stressors can come from:

  • frustration at limitations in the support that one can provide, often due to lack of resources available;
  • boundary blurring between volunteer, work or family commitments creating life conflicts;
  • excessive demands, be they with respect to responsibilities, time demand, role demands, or the demands we put on ourselves with our expectations;
  • unequal distribution of demands across volunteers;
  • difficulties working with other stakeholders;
  • structural, hierarchical or cultural pressures within some volunteer organisations;
  • witnessing trauma or experiencing vicarious trauma; and
  • living a constantly ‘time-poor’ life running from one commitment to the next.

Expectations, Role Boundaries and Self-Care: Looking after our Volunteers

A key step in creating sustainability of involvement amongst volunteers is acknowledging the load they carry and the need for self-care to manage their exposure to stressors in volunteering environments.  Key considerations to reduce stress include:

  • creating reasonable expectations for yourself and other volunteers from the start;
  • anticipate the foreseeable stressors you and other volunteers will be exposed to and plan ahead for these;
  • know your boundaries and limits, recognise the other important domains in your life and be prepared to say “no” – don’t wait for conflict or it to become ‘too much’;
  • connect with others by resisting the desire to isolate yourself;
  • get active as any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever;
  • make time to eat a healthy diet – time poor volunteers can sometimes fall into habits of eating for convenience rather than nutrition;
  • give mindfulness or meditation a try to quiet the mind if you’re finding your thoughts jumbled or crowded;
  • reconnect with your values and your motivation to volunteer in the first place; and
  • build support, meaning, fun, goals and recognition into volunteering – it should be rewarding to be part of it!

BUSY Health provide training and consultancy as well as individual support across areas like:

  • managing stress and building resilience;
  • creating healthy boundaries;
  • dealing with vicarious stress and cumulative exposure to trauma;
  • foundations of self-care;
  • goal setting;
  • work and personal life integration;
  • team performance;
  • optimised role and team design;
  • building psychologically safe teams and organisations; and
  • foundations of sustainable volunteering.

If you’d like to talk with our team about supporting volunteers or you’re a volunteer and could use support along the way, call BUSY Health on 1800 270 984 to see how we can help.

Article contributed by BUSY Health counsellor, Max Rankin.

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