How to Overcome Personal Barriers to Volunteering



If you’ve thought about volunteering but haven’t taken any definite steps in that direction, what is holding you back? There are a great many people who consider volunteering and never actually get around to it; although to be fair there are a great many more who don’t stop to consider it in the first place because they don’t see what volunteering can do for them.

There are so many positives to volunteering and such an abundance of opportunities that in many ways it’s a no-brainer, and far more people should be getting involved. So why aren’t they; and what reason do you have for not committing to becoming a volunteer?

I don’t have time

This is one of the most frequently quoted reasons for not volunteering. There’s no denying that most people’s lives are already busy and in a lot of cases pretty stressful too. If you never seem to have time to get everything done for yourself that you should, the thought of adding another responsibility to the mix seems crazy.

On the other hand, in certain situations, volunteering could actually help you with your chaotic schedule. If that seems unlikely, consider a possible scenario:

You work long hours and already feel like you don’t spend enough time with the kids. You feel stressed and can’t find the time to relax and get away from the pressure you’re feeling. You also happen to be a pretty handy baseball player, and you’re asked if you’ll help coach the local Little League team.

Your instinct is to say no, but if you paused and thought about it, you’d see this could work to your advantage. If you’re helping out with Little League, you can be around and involved with what your kids are doing, giving you a chance to spend time with them in an unforced, enjoyable way and reducing a source of stress.

The coaching takes your mind off your other worries and helps keep you in shape, both of which lower your stress levels and contribute to your overall health. You feel energized by having a role doing something you enjoy and helping kids learn about the game you love, and proud of being able to put something back into your community.

On balance, spending a couple of hours a few times a week on coaching is doing you far more good than collapsing in front of the TV with a beer.

I don’t have any useful skills

People often fail to see what they could contribute to a volunteering role, and imagine they need special skills or qualifications to be of any use. In truth, there are very few people who don’t have any skills at all, it’s just that they’re unaware of what constitutes a valuable asset. For instance, you may feel you’re the last person who should be working with people struggling to manage debt because you’ve had problems with money yourself. What you’re missing is the fact that having experienced a similar problem to the people you’re helping, you can empathize with their predicament and they’ll feel more at ease with someone who understands what they’re going through.

The same is true of any of life’s experiences – it’s always easier and more helpful to share with someone who had the same experience. In Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s recovered alcoholics who mentor new members and help them stay dry because when you’re an alcoholic you relate to others caught in the misery of addiction in a way no-one who isn’t an alcoholic can.

If you’ve looked after yourself you could well have practical skills like cooking, cleaning, household maintenance, decorating, and gardening. Even someone who’s never achieved anything (and they don’t really exist) is capable of doing manual work! Plus of course, any volunteer work you do adds to your skillset and looks impressive on your resume, so it’s an activity that can help you with your career and prospects.

I’ve got too much on my mind

There’s a difference between having a clinical mood disorder and simply feeling low or overburdened. Illnesses like depression and anxiety shouldn’t be ignored, so if you’re suffering from the symptoms of a mood disorder, do seek medical help. On the other hand, if you’ve got a bout of the blues, the best way to tackle it is to sort out your problems and find better things to do than brood.

Say you’re having a problem budgeting, and feel constantly stressed about being able to manage your money. Worrying won’t help, but spending time working on your situation with actions such as creating an analysis of your spending habits, finding ways to lower debt repayments, swapping your old credit card for a card that helps you earn rewards when you spend, and creating a budget plan, could make a big difference.

Volunteering is something that anyone who’s done it will tell you gives you an amazing boost, so if you’re feeling low then getting involved in a project near you could be just the ticket for restoring your appreciation of life.

I don’t know what role to choose

There are so many possibilities when it comes to volunteering that this can be a genuine dilemma! You could try looking at it from a practical point of view:

  • What hours are you available?
  • Can you help out regularly or only occasionally?
  • How far can you travel?

By establishing what you can do, you eliminate anything that doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle. Then it’s a question of seeing what does fit and choosing the most appealing opportunity.

Alternatively, you could find out about volunteering in a role related to one of your passions in life. Maybe you’d love to race cars, but don’t have the money to get started at present. There are many volunteer positions at race circuits and grass roots competitions –for example, marshals are volunteers even at the major events, and you can’t get much closer to the action than marshaling on a track.

Whatever excuse you’ve been using, at the end of the day if you want to be a volunteer, you’ll find a way – and as volunteering has so many benefits, you’d be mad not to!

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