Originally Published as a guest post by the Association of Volunteer Managers January 2019
I was recently discussing with a friend the complex demands we volunteering professionals find ourselves under, I am sure you will be familiar with some or all of these
- juggling the various aspects of our day to day roles whilst trying to keep abreast of changing trends
- attempting to meet the many and diverse needs of the volunteers that we support
- finding new, creative and collaborative ways to engage people in our mission
- trying to secure support and/or funding for our work
Like many people outside the profession she was surprised by these insights and genuinely interested to know how I managed to make time for myself, my family, and look after my own wellbeing in the midst of all of this. I confessed that the latter had somewhat lapsed towards the end of last year and that I was aiming to get back on track. I also admitted it is an ongoing challenge for me and many people I know in our area of work.
She smiled knowingly and said what you need to remember is ‘Love thy Neighbour’.
No, not the rather cringe worthy 70s sitcom but the second commandment* ‘Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself’. I was rather puzzled as to the relevance of her comment so I asked her to explain how this would help. She said very simply, if I am supposed to love my neighbour the same way I love myself, then I need to do a good job of loving me. I need to take good care of myself – eat well, sleep well, exercise, and rest and recharge my batteries when needed.
If I do a rubbish job of loving me how I can possibly do a good job of loving and looking after others?
We hear a lot in the media about volunteering being a positive force for mental health and wellbeing but less about the challenges for people supporting and leading volunteers in an increasingly complex environment.
There are some enlightened companies that are now enabling their employees to stay healthy and supporting them to move through challenges when they occur. New initiatives include mental health first aiders, adjustments for women experiencing the menopause and more equitable sharing of parental duties, to name but a few.
So whilst we know that volunteer management has an additional layer of emotional complexity, thanks to the research by the University of Leicester researchers and the National Trust, it still feels like the voluntary sector is lagging behind. We may have great awareness and good intentions but it’s the small simple actions on the ground, which can make a huge difference that seem to be missing.
Are we genuinely encouraging a culture where we talk about not just the practical but the emotional demands of the work we do?
Do we talk with colleagues about good self care, maintaining our resilience and making time for this to happen?
Is it ok to admit you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ask for support, and if you do what response will you get?
Good self care starts with the individual but if we are consistently working in an environment where eating on the move, skipping breaks, staying late and where going above and beyond is the norm then the underlying message is that self-care isn’t a priority no matter what the policy statement says.
I don’t profess to have all the answers but I do want to open up the conversation……
- What are you doing this year to take care of yourself? – (I‘m learning to Zentangle)
- How are you and your team looking out for each other?
- What one small thing could your organisation do to support and empower you to love yourself just a little bit more?
Join the discussion at #AVMWellbeing and come along and learn more at our Ways to wellbeing and productivity for volunteer managers event.
*Bible – Mark 12:29-31 | Torah – Leviticus 19:18 | Qur’an – Surah 24:22
Food for thought, discussion and debate by Carol Carbine