Volunteer Your Time to Reduce Stress

Offering of yourself is one great way to relieve your own stress that may relate to your own problems. Often the biggest obstacle to volunteering is figuring out what to do and where to go. Most communities have one or more umbrella organizations or volunteer clearinghouses that are aware of all the volunteering opportunities in your area. To find it, contact any major volunteer group. They will know where to send you.

Here are some ideas of ways to volunteer:

  • Become a Big Brother or Big Sister.

  • Volunteer to help out at a local homeless shelter.

  • Help out at a library.

  • Help at a local museum (serve as a tour guide or help with fundraising).

  • Improve a neighborhood garden, park, or sidewalk.

  • Coach kids in a team sport.

  • Deliver food to the homebound or the elderly.

  • Become a tutor in the public school system.

  • Help administer a favorite charity.

  • Help out at the ASPCA or Humane Society.

  • Help organize a blood drive.

  • Be part of a hotline.

  • Teach literacy for adults.

  • Become part of an ESL (English as a second language) program.

  • Help with fundraising at a public radio or television station.

  • Work at a nursing home or senior-citizen center.

  • Be a helper at a nonprofit daycare center.

How to offer random acts of kindness

Remember, you can be altruistic in ways that don’t involve a regular time commitment or membership in an organization. You can “freelance.” Dozens of opportunities exist for you to help someone or do something positive for another person. Random acts of kindness — a kind word, a small deed, a courtesy — all work to produce positive and satisfying feelings within you, and within the people with whom you interact.

Helping hints

In his book The Healing Power of Doing Good, Allan Luks offers some guidelines about which volunteering experiences are the most stress-effective. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Find situations that bring you directly into contact with others who need the help. Stuffing envelopes is okay, but you’ll find greater satisfaction in a hands-on situation.

  • Find an area of helping where you feel empathy for those with whom you’re working.

  • Find an involvement that can utilize a skill or ability you have.

  • Don’t over-commit yourself. You’re better off starting small and adding on.

  • Exert yourself to reach out. Stretch yourself in some way.

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