Missing your child? Try volunteering - the surprisingly selfish solution

September 16th, 2019

Missing your child? Try volunteering - the surprisingly selfish solution

By Dan Whale

  • Anxiety
  • Bereavement
  • Depression
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • Life Changes

Children leaving home for the first time can be a challenging experience for parents, more so than they may first imagine. Despite the fact that this life change may have been anticipated for some time, the sudden void left by a child or children can be difficult to cope with (more information can be found here).

One aspect parents can struggle with is the change in their normal routine. Even for those working in full-time, demanding jobs, spending that first Sunday lunch without them or not picking them up from hockey on a Wednesday night can be an uncomfortable feeling. No matter how big or small, changes in how we spend our free time can be unsettling.

When people have increased time on their hands, one of the first suggestions to be made is often volunteering. Advocates of volunteering are often quick to point out the difference it makes to society, saving lives and changing the way we live. Completely true. What you might underestimate, however, is just how much it can help you personally.

Volunteering will help take your mind off the children you miss and allow you to throw yourself into something new. But more than this, volunteering offers genuine advantages to your mental health in various ways, depending on which organisation you choose to volunteer with. Take a look at how volunteering with the charities below can impact your mental health.

Get some furry new friends

Who doesn’t love animals? The positive impact of animal contact on certain mental health challenges has been well established. Animal-Assisted Therapy can be used to treat conditions such as stress, depression and loneliness, and simply being in the company of certain animals has been shown to improve the mood of many people.

As such, you may want to consider working for an animal charity. We spoke to the RSPCA and they had this to say:

“Volunteering is an extremely rewarding way to fill your days if you find yourself with more time on your hands or if you want to help local charities. Volunteering is also vitally important to charities like the RSPCA and we have thousands of volunteers who help the charity run as well as ensuring the animals in our care get everything they need from clean homes to lovely walks to round-the-clock care.

We’re always looking for animal-loving volunteers to join our ranks so if you’d like to find out more about volunteering for the RSPCA, please visit: www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/volunteer.”

Get out in nature

If you live in an urban area, spending some time in nature can work wonders for your mental health. There are many benefits gained from being around trees, as we explain in a previous blog post, and being in a different environment may be just the distraction you need. London Wildlife Trust had this to say:

“Research has shown that volunteering outdoors in nature has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing and has the added benefits of not only meeting new people and learning new skills; but of being in a calm, green space surrounded by nature’s tranquil sights, sounds and smells. More information can be found in our report

Regain human interaction

Teenagers aren’t exactly lauded for their communication skills, but one of the most immediate impacts of a child leaving home can be a decrease in your day-to-day human interaction. Spending less time talking to others can understandably increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. Volunteering can help you regain regular human interaction and help you feel more like yourself again.

The British Heart Foundation often have stores and projects to help with, which involve speaking with other volunteers and the general public. A spokesperson told us:

“Whether you would like to join a fundraising group and be involved in community based activities or gain retail experience on a busy shop floor or in a warehouse, we have many varied roles on offer, so there really is something for everyone. As well as funding life saving research, volunteering is also proven to help to improve wellbeing and help build lasting friendships. Simply visit our website to find out more.”

If you find yourself with more time to yourself, or simply just missing a loved one, volunteering can be a great way to put your energy into something different. However, don’t just see it as a distraction. You might find that a certain charity is offering just what you need to manage your feelings of Empty Nest Syndrome and get you back to feeling your best Self.

If you’d like to speak to someone about what you’re currently going through, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at hello@helloself.com.

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