Volunteering: how to help without strain and with joy?
Man among people
According to the Foundation for the Support of Philanthropy, every second adult resident of Russia participates in charity. What explains this involvement? The answer is generally obvious: doing good is easy (sometimes it’s enough to transfer a certain amount using SMS) and is fashionable. And this mod cannot but rejoice. However, for systematic assistance, good intentions and good feelings are not enough, rules are needed that will allow volunteers to take care of themselves and not be disappointed in their work.
Why do we want to help
The desire to selflessly help is natural for us. Caring for each other allows you to survive, despite wars, natural disasters and illnesses. Children very early begin to distinguish between good and evil and are drawn to those who show kindness, says psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman based on research. After the one-year-old children were shown a cartoon, where the triangle helped the circle to climb the hill, and the square, on the contrary, interfered, they often reached for the “good” triangle. True, if parents do not reinforce this behavior, then subsequently children are less likely to show altruistic impulses.
In general, a full-fledged life can be lived only by one who goes beyond the limits of his own personality and “discovers meaning in the outside world,” said the creator of speech therapy, Viktor Frankl. Devoting ourselves to something greater than ourselves, we become happier, our life is filled with impressions and discoveries, we grow as a person. Moreover, hedonistic adaptation does not threaten such happiness, says a positive psychologist Sonia Lubomirski.
The joy of buying a new thing (apartment, car) passes quite quickly, but the happiness of the fact that we have changed someone’s life, made the world a better place, is experienced more sharply and lasts much longer.
Toxic or environmentally friendly?
Charity in the form of donating property or money is unlikely to lead to emotional burnout, although it can end at any time in connection with a change in life circumstances. But volunteering requires psychological preparation.
A volunteer gives his time and resources to those who need it, he sees suffering, pain, grief, despair, is constantly in contact with many people. Help can be professional if the volunteer works as a teacher, fundraiser or physician, and unqualified, but no less valuable – to sit with a child or give out tickets to the event.
Charity – not sacrificing oneself for another and not trying to save the world alone
Burnout most often causes so-called toxic charity. For example, if we are always approached in critical situations, share soul-exhausting details, when providing assistance, we inevitably fall into heavy thoughts, says the head of the Dobro.mail.ru service Alexandra Babkina. And vice versa, when we understand that we have become part of the changes, it fills with joy, gives faith that our life is full of meaning.
Who to lean on
It is impossible to be a volunteer and never get tired, not to experience negative emotions, experts say. However, sincerity and a healthy assessment of their capabilities allow you to save energy and use resources efficiently. Volunteers highly value teamwork.
“Certainly, one warrior in the field. But the support of like-minded people is very helpful. Sometimes inspiration ends, and it’s good if there are those who still have it: then we get infected with it, ”says Inna Pasechnik, a psychologist at the Volunteers to Help Orphans fund.
We are not superheroes, it is important for us to get a return, to see the result and understand what it is valuable to us
Another option is to contact an experienced colleague or work continuously in pairs. “Sharing responsibilities and mutual support make life easier for volunteers,” adds Inna Pasechnik. Not always do we realize that someone around is feeling bad. Therefore, it is good to have a safe space where everyone can propose their problem for discussion with other volunteers working in the same project. And sometimes the help of a psychologist may be required. “Most often this is connected not so much with volunteer work as with personal problems,” says Yury Belanovsky, head of the Danilovtsy volunteer movement.
Charity is not sacrificing oneself for another and not trying to save the world alone, as in Hollywood blockbusters. In life, such ambition can lead to depression.
We are not superheroes, it is important for us to get a return, see the result and understand what it is valuable to us. Then helping others will make our lives fuller and richer.
How to avoid burnout? 4 tips based on volunteer experience
1. Establish a sincere relationship. Becoming a volunteer without internal motivation for this is very risky, says Yuri Belanovsky. This activity is connected with people in distress, and therefore emotionally affects us. Entering into personal relationships with those who suffer, we look into their eyes, call them by name, we feel responsible for these relationships. If we do this insincerely, we run the risk of crisis and emptiness. The psychological position in relation to the wards is a very personal matter, emphasizes Yuri Belanovsky.
Many are not ready to be friends with those whom they help. “Maybe he is not a friend, but a companion for a couple of hours. This position should be a personal decision, it cannot be imposed. ”
2. Set goals and mark the result. Regardless of whether we work with people or are engaged, for example, in fundraising, work brings us joy when we see the result, Inna Pasechnik is sure.
The problem is that he is always smaller than we would like: there are many unfortunates, and everyone wants to help. The result may be obvious: raised money – helped the child. But it is equally important to set specific goals and measure results with them. It is pointless to try to heal a terminally ill patient, but you can always change the patient’s well-being with small actions or make another person a little happier.
3. Soberly evaluate resources. Understanding how much time we are willing to give to others and what exactly we want to do helps build boundaries.
It is important to say to yourself in time: “Stop!” For example, a driver with great experience can calmly report that he is not ready to carry someone, but he will gladly help in another way. So he builds borders, preserving his inner resource, his freedom to help as he sees fit for himself. Another important point is the awareness of personal position. If we are talking about a hospital, an orphanage or a nursing home, the volunteer must understand what is built into the overall process.
4. Be mindful of yourself. Specialists of helping professions sooner or later face cooling, getting used to the process, sometimes with emotional exhaustion. Volunteers rarely reach the deep burnout stage, but the initial stages are possible, when fatigue builds up, there is a desire to quit. You need to pay attention to these feelings. If there is indifference or even rejection, it is worth relaxing, disconnecting, perhaps taking a break.
“There can be different emotional reactions, because it’s about communication,” explains Yuri Belanovsky. – The question is how to relate to this, whose help to use, how to build borders, save time for yourself. If solutions are found, difficulties will be an incentive for development. Even those who decide that this is not his way will be able to know themselves better. ”