I got to thinking about myself and Waylon’s “Eight Basic Salves for Burn-out” list and realized one thing in my life that is a sure cure for burnout and commented…
“This may sound counter intuitive when you are feeling burnt and crispy, but I know that, for me, if I go out and do some “SEVA”—kind of get out of my own way, out of my own head and focused on the needs of something that is bigger than my own little kingdom—it is renewing and refreshing. I myself have been feeling a bit charred (maybe it is the time of year or some weird phase of the moon).
Normally I spend one afternoon a week helping load shelter dogs on a van to be transported to no kill rescues out of state. I missed the last 2 weeks and finally got back to it today. All I can say is it resets my dial, suddenly I can see the world with new eyes. I have always thought about the volunteer “work” I do (I am committed to two different orgs and do a few shifts per month for both) and how it feels like I am getting away with something.
This is because the act of doing something just to be there, of service, is nourishing in ways I never expect. Even on the days I think I could be “getting things done” but have to go to my volunteer gig as I am committed, I am always amazed how I feel after some time in the fellowship that only can come out of doing something “selfless”.”
This led to a conversation with a friend on how our “unpaid” work has a way of keeping us sane in the midst of a crazy city. Doing something for the simple motivation of helping has a way of making you feel human again. Especially when we spend so much time in boxes going from one place to the next, talking on boxes, typing on boxes and so on.
You can go for days without having a live connection in the midst of a million people. Yet, I know when I show up for my volunteer gigs it puts me in touch with something real. The work itself is simple. But the simplicity is the gift. The ability to complete a task, not for yourself or to be paid money, and witness the fruits of your labor have an impact.
Commitment is key. I have found over the years doing various volunteer projects the energy shifts once you say yes to being consistently committed. Although doing a bit of service here and there is better then none, the real shift comes when you make it part of your life. Not just when it is convenient.
Another factor is embracing the idea of doing it anonymously. Validation should not be your main objective when taking on service work. The simple act of doing it should be validation enough.
By taking the focus off how you are doing and putting the focus on how others are doing shifts things.
The result often is discovering your stressors aren’t as dramatic as you believed.
There are so many organizations that need help. It shouldn’t be hard to find a place your unique talent and personality can be utilized. I have one friend who is passionate about “Emergency Preparedness Training.” He organizes trainings and does community outreach in all parts of the city. This is so important in a city like L.A. where mother nature can shake us to our core at any given moment.
I have another friend who has been a volunteer with “Heal the Bay” since high school and has just passed a 20 year threshold with the group. She was instrumental in helping to ban plastic bags in the city.
Here are some ideas to get you started on where you can help:
- –Homeless animals
- –Homeless people
- –Spiritual organizations
- –Political activation
- –Local food banks
- –Troubled teens, children in care
- –Women and Men in transition (recovery, abuse, incarceration)
- –The elderly or infirm
- –School gardens
- –Local cleanup (beach, woods, urban areas)
- –Reading and homework help for kids
- –Any 501c3 you feel passionate about
- –Offer a weekly free yoga class
In the spirit of the last entry, you can create your own way of doing service. I have another friend who owns a small business. She seeks out young ex offenders who otherwise have trouble finding work. She gives them jobs (at a doggy daycare—how great is that) and ends up being a bit of loving surrogate Mom/ big sister in their life. It is remarkable what amazing, dedicated workers these young men evolve into when given a positive role model (and dogs).
If you are really too busy to take on a regular schedule with an organization there are other ways to creatively help. Purchase art/school supplies and donate them to a needy school, buy fresh fruit and hand it out where the homeless congregate, donate needed goods to a shelter (human or animal), go shopping for a food bank or create a piece of art and donate it to a transitional living facility to beautify the space.
The possibilities are endless. Once I decided I no longer liked wearing perfume I took all my bottles of fragrance (there were many) and donated them to a women’s shelter. Many women in abusive situations flee with the clothes on their back and nothing else.
Although it may seem like more work to take on service, finding the joy in serving allows us the opportunity for a new perspective of our own lives and how truly blessed we are.
I’d like to take a cue from Waylon again and ask, What’d I miss? Add your ideas to the comments!
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Editor: Hayley Samuelson.