We are coping with a new normal that creates additional stress on already overburdened volunteer managers. Constant change and adaptation wears your psyche down like balding tires on a cross-country trip. You get no traction; only tires spinning and clouds of that toxic burning rubber smell. Your hard work is on hold. Volunteers are not getting the benefits of volunteering. People are not receiving the loving care from volunteers.
A recent report from Reset 2020 (https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2020/08/new-report-uncovers-covid-19-mental-health-toll-on-nfp-sector/ ) indicates 28% of respondents say staff and volunteer mental health and well-being is impacted by the crisis. And when volunteers’ mental health is impacted, volunteer managers’ mental health is impacted.
I don’t have some magic pill answer. Sometimes you just have to stop fighting and feel the feelings. (and remember, I am not a mental health counselor, just someone who’s also experienced burnout and dejection and stress).
When struggling, I would find that fighting the burnout was more exhausting than experiencing it. I found that constantly berating myself for “having those feelings” crushed me. Instead, I began to let my understandably human emotions play out. I’d crawl into the feelings, turn them over, and verbalize how crappy everything was. I’d let the feelings run rampant.
Then, after I rolled around in the negativity for a bit, something interesting would happen. I’d start to look at challenges without the crushing weight of burnout. Things didn’t seem so bleak. Sure, they were still hard, but they moved into a new perspective.
I think we, volunteer managers tend to deny our negative feelings because we’re always “on.” We’re looked at as cheerful people with can-do attitudes and we don’t think we can have bad days. But we can. Because we’re human and our human-ness is what makes us so darned effective.
Our human-ness allows us to empathize, to focus, to sincerely care. It makes us weep, and laugh, act silly and deeply serious. It leads us to connect and retain that connection as if invisible fibers radiated from our bodies to those around us.
But it also gives us resilience. It gives us the will to get back up. It shows us that life is not always pretty or fun or good. We see the joys and the tragedies as we walk besides fellow travelers in the journey.
We know that the human experience is filled with wonder, disaster, sadness and light. We know it is as varied as drifting snowflakes, and as vast as drops of ocean water.
Our jobs require feeling.
Sometimes we have to feel for ourselves