The following is excerpted from Why the Best Volunteers Can Get Burned by Burnout.
From the website, Money. How Stuff Works: “There is no end to the ways you can over-commit yourself … Many adults have trouble using the word ‘No.’ So, you end up coaching your kids' soccer teams, helping out in their classrooms, designing the school yearbook, reading stories at the library and serving as a field trip chaperone. Or perhaps you counsel troubled youth, walk dogs at the animal shelter, run fundraisers for charitable organizations, organize political campaigns and serve on your condo board.
“… The best volunteers are usually the ones most prone to burnout. That's because they're so dedicated, they often fail to take mental health breaks or ask for help. And because they're so dedicated, organizations often pile more and more responsibility on them.”
How do we, as volunteers, recognize burnout in ourselves and others? The symptoms include: tired, stressed, resentful, and cranky. And the worst symptom is when you no longer get that feel-good benefit from volunteering. When you ask yourself, “Is all this effort worth my time and energy?” you have already burnt out.
It’s time to take a no-giving holiday. It’s time to give back to yourself. After all, you have earned it. If your volunteerism history includes years and decades, pull out a notepad and list everything you have given. Include your efforts in fundraising, (add up how much money your efforts have raised over the years — you might be surprised), donating clothes to a homeless shelter, driving a neighbor to a medical appointment, answering hotlines, cleaning up the beach, or welcoming newcomers to the community.
“Holding space for yourself” is a term that keeps coming up in my personal research on compassion and volunteerism. As I understand the term “holding space,” it means holding no judgement. By applying this to yourself, according to a recent post on the website Uplift, “… If you truly want to help others, and make a positive impact on the world, then learning to hold space for yourself, to befriend and love yourself, is the greatest impact you could make on the planet. You can’t hold space for someone else if you can’t be with your own pain and hold space for yourself. If there’s no room for you in your life, there isn’t really any room for others. When you’re kind to yourself you impact the lives of others by being less reactive, more responsive, more available, empathic, compassionate, kind, present, balanced and at peace.”