Volunteering with Chronic Pain
Distraction is a powerful tool in combatting chronic pain. Living in constant pain might also make you more empathetic to the struggles of others, and volunteering is a great way to both distract yourself from your own issues and help others in need.
A recent study found that levels of pain and depression declined in patients with chronic pain who volunteered to help others. The two themes of “making a connection” and having “a sense of purpose” emerged as common sentiments from those who gave back.
Giving back to others can also be a powerful reminder of the blessings that we do have. Practicing gratitude for the things that we have in our lives is a powerful way to reframe our current situation and look at it through a different lens. Regularly expressing gratitude is another powerful antidote in the fight against chronic pain.
If you’re planning on getting out and giving back, here are a few things to consider before volunteering with chronic pain.
Get the Full Lay of the Land
Volunteering is great for your mind, but can be extremely taxing on your body. Plan ahead for success. Is there a day of the week where you typically have more energy? Being well-rested and energized can make or break your volunteer experience.
Also, don’t be shy to get the lay of the land. What’s your volunteer job description? Will there be chairs or benches where you can take a rest if need be? Will the organization provide snacks and water? If not, you can plan to bring your own snacks and even a folding chair if need be.
One of the best benefits of volunteering is feeling connected. Whether it be with other volunteers, with the people around you, or simply with your local community, feeling connected just makes you feel good.
When you’re volunteering, push yourself to say hello to someone when you regularly wouldn’t. Ask another volunteer a question about him- or herself. Pushing yourself to engage with others can have great rewards. You might even make a new likeminded friend.
Be Proud of Yourself
Sometimes our society makes us feel shameful for being proud of ourselves. Throw that out the window. Too often we don’t take time to congratulate ourselves or our accomplishments.
Take a moment to just feel good, whether it’s taking a deep breath in the car and smiling to yourself after volunteering, or grabbing lunch with fellow volunteers. Keep the feel-good vibes going with kind words to yourself.
To find local volunteer activities, visit volunteermatch.org.
How do you like to give back to the community? We’d love to hear from you! Please share your stories below.