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Maintaining Mental Health While Volunteering: Recognizing Burnout and Seeking Support

I used to be heavily involved in volunteering. Coaching soccer and basketball, serving on multiple boards, and assisting wherever I could became second nature to me, even while juggling a full-time job and a family of four. At first, volunteering was a positive force in my life, offering social connections, skill-building opportunities, and a sense of fulfillment that was excellent for my mental health.

My journey with volunteering began in my teenage years, inspired by my parents' example. It continued into adulthood, enriching my life and relationship with my wife as we gave back to our community together. Even as our family grew, volunteering remained a cherished activity, especially when we could do it together, like coaching our children's recreational sports teams. It was a source of joy and connection for us all.

However, as our children's sports commitments escalated to the competitive level, so did my involvement. What started as occasional coaching roles soon became all-consuming responsibilities, leading to a significant imbalance in my life and exacerbating an already overwhelming schedule. Despite my initial enthusiasm, struggling to say no, I found myself stretched thin, sacrificing family time, neglecting other responsibilities, and personal well-being for the sake of volunteering. It wasn't until I reached a breaking point, experiencing burnout and emotional exhaustion, that I realized the toll volunteering and a busy work life had taken on my mental health.

In hindsight, I recognize the importance of setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care. By scaling back my volunteering commitments and focusing on finding a sense of balance, I rediscovered the positive impact volunteering can have on mental health. Today, I volunteer within manageable limits, allowing me to enjoy quality time with my loved ones, nurture social connections, and find fulfillment in giving back to my community without becoming overwhelmed and sacrificing my well-being.

Reflecting on my journey, I've come to understand the importance of recognizing warning signs of burnout and seeking support when needed. Common signs of burnout include feeling exhausted or drained, both physically and emotionally, increased irritability or impatience, decreased motivation or interest in activities once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and withdrawal from social activities or relationships.

Recognizing these signs early on can prevent the toll that burnout can take on mental health. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it may be a sign that additional support is needed. Programs like Guarding Minds at Work (a free tool available to all employers), provide valuable resources for assessing and addressing psychological health not only in the workplace but also in volunteer settings.

Guarding Minds at Work offers tools and resources to help employers create psychologically safe environments, reducing the risk of burnout and promoting mental wellness among employees, including those who volunteer. Through assessments, training programs, and support materials, Guarding Minds at Work empowers organizations to prioritize mental health and foster a culture of well-being.

In conclusion, while volunteering can enhance mental health through social connections and personal fulfillment, maintaining a healthy balance and prioritizing self-care are essential to prevent burnout and maintain well-being. Investing in programs like Guarding Minds at Work can lead to healthier, more engaged employees and a more supportive workplace culture, ensuring that volunteering remains positive in our lives and communities. If you're interested in learning more about how Guarding Minds at Work can benefit your organization, or would like support facilitating it, feel free to schedule a consultation with us at Lisa Isaac Human Resources Professional Services.

For professional HR advice that you can trust, contact us today! 

From the LIHR team and lead collaborator, Dale Mosley HR Project Manager/ HR Consultant at Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services

Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services

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