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Minding your mental health and wellbeing as a Volunteer

By 23rd March 2020 March 25th, 2020 No Comments
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“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong upon landing on the Moon 1969

Volunteers similarly take that one significant apparently small step which has immeasurable benefits mankind. It is so evident in these difficult and tough times, the contribution volunteers are making for the wellbeing of communities not just in Ireland but worldwide.

Mental Health Ireland is very appreciative of our many dedicated volunteers in their efforts to promote wellbeing and positive mental health during these tough times.

Our current circumstances regarding Covid-19 has brought out the absolute very best in Irish people and their willingness to volunteer and to help whatever way possible. It is commendable. However, that said it is extremely important for volunteers to create balance in such willingness in relation to minding their physical, mental and social wellbeing.

We are familiar with the flight attendant and their particular safety message around the oxygen mask which is put it on yourself first before anyone else. To do so, puts you in a place of control to help the person that maybe struggling to get their mask in place also. It is necessary to attach the same importance to our mental health and wellbeing in any role that is undertaken as a volunteer.

Common sense must prevail as volunteer burnout is a real risk factor in these tough times and may lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted which can lead to feeling of stress and anxiety.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress is a natural and healthy response to challenging situations or life events. Stress can sometimes be helpful in motivating us to complete a task. However, at times, stress can become overwhelming and affect our ability to cope. Some of the things that can make you feel stress include experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation. Right now, the biggest stress affecting all of us is the impact of the Covid 19 virus and it in turn is causing other stresses, worry about health, financial concerns and the wellbeing of family members.

Mental Health Ireland Stress Booklet

Stress and anxiety impacts on our mental health and Mental Health Ireland, in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, explores the risk and protective factors to it. Imagine both these concepts in your right and left hands. So what do the risk factors look like in these current times, exhaustion, worry, burn out concern for the person to whom you are providing the support, a clear risk is the possibility of contracting the Covid 19. So what are the protective factors? The major and significant one is that feeling of satisfaction of being able to help someone in need. Being able to provide practical assistance to others at this time will benefit the person receiving support. However, it is very important that you protect yourself and keep the right and left hands balanced.

Mental Health Ireland Anxiety Booklet

Five Ways to Wellbeing

One such way of achieving this balance is to consider the Five Ways to Wellbeing and how you can apply them for your personal benefit in your role as a volunteer as well as your daily life. The following are some suggestions:

Connect: Maintain connection with the organisation with whom you are volunteering and debrief with them about your experiences. Also connect in with your family and friends through your social media platforms for example, Facebook, Whatsapps, Face time, and social media.

Be Active: Identify and ensure that you build in a level of activity that you enjoy doing, even a short stroll adhering to social distancing guidelines can be beneficial.

Take Notice: Take a few moments out to check in to your own thoughts and feelings.

Keep Learning: Taking up a new interest can be an excellent distraction while at the same time enhancing self- esteem and confidence. So in restricted conditions this can be trying out a new recipe, or why not try an online course.

Give: Without doubt you are substantially giving as a volunteer and that by doing so you have enhance the wellbeing of the person you are supporting. So now it is important that you give to yourself. Take time out to relax, listen to some favourite music, sign onto Spotify, sit down and watch your favourite TV show. It is a time of adaptation, it is vital that we invest in our self- care, maintain a regular routine, sleep, eat well, exercise within the constraints of current times.

Finally remember please take care of your health and protect others and keep in line with the best practice guidelines issued by the HSE and set out in detail. Read here

  • Wash your hand regularly and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze (dispose of used tissue immediately and wash hands).
  • If you display symptoms, phone your family doctor or local emergency department without delay
  • Practice social distancing – Stay 2 metres apart.

For more information please visit www.mentalhealthireland.ie