We give so much of ourselves as volunteers, and sometimes we lose balance in our lives. Work-life balance is one thing, but even more special and elusive is the work-life-volunteer balance.
I had a chance to see Emmy Stuebing, Executive Director of the Alberta Emerald Foundation, speak at a conference this year and found her words inspiring. I caught up with her again to ask for some nuggets of advice.
“Over the past few weeks, I saw several articles about being “busy,” and how busy is not something to be proud of. Certainly, there will be times throughout the year when we are feeling stretched thin and very busy, but to constantly describe your life as busy is not healthy nor is it something to strive for! For many years, it has been encouraged to be busy, with the belief that busy people must be more important and productive, but that is no longer the case. Busy shouldn’t be glorified. If you are perpetually busy, perhaps you need to seek help with your time management. So, the next time someone asks you how you’re doing, don’t respond with “busy”… it just isn’t something to be so proud of!”
Here are just a few of my favourite tips:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends, family and coworkers are likely more than willing to lend a hand with something, but only if you ask them!
- Make time for mental breaks throughout your day. Do you enjoy a 15 minute walk on your lunch? Maybe it’s playing poker on your phone for a few hands. Or join the kids for a snowball fight after work before your next errand! Walk away from your desk to grab a beverage and catch up with a co-worker. Simply closing your eyes and taking 10-20 deep breaths has been shown to help clear your mind and calm your nerves.
- Can’t say no? There’s nothing wrong with literally scheduling time for yourself in your planning, and make sure you commit to it. “For me, the most effective trick has been saying, ‘sorry, I have a prior commitment’ when asked to attend something that simply is not a priority, and making that commitment myself and my ‘balance,’” says Stuebing.
If someone asks if you’re free, you can honestly say you’re unavailable. Even if your ‘prior commitment’ involves a giant bowl of popcorn and the hockey game, it’s the truth!
- Shut it down at night. How many of us are using our phones or other devices until the moment we go to sleep? Not only does this interrupt our natural sleep chemicals and patterns, it takes away from conversation with our loved ones. Have a cut-off time (for me, it’s 8:00pm), plug your phone in somewhere you won’t check it constantly, and let your body start preparing for sleep.
- Celebrate the wins! It’s easy to get swept up in the chaos of our lives, brush past the successes, and onto the next thing. Celebrate yourself! Even if the “win” is finally emptying your inbox, take a moment and acknowledge how good it feels to have a big item off your list.
There are countless benefits to feeling balanced in your life. We all do better when we feel better- mentally, physically and emotionally. And for those with Kin kids, while we teach our children to be kind, and about the importance of giving back, we also must teach them how to achieve balance. Because in the end, a healthy volunteer is a healthy community.