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How to Recognize Volunteer Burnout

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have thrown themselves into the world of volunteerism, aiming to do as much as they can to help. During difficult times such as these, we are certainly in more need of volunteers than ever before. Charitable organizations of all kinds are happy to have seen such a drastic uptick […]

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have thrown themselves into the world of volunteerism, aiming to do as much as they can to help. During difficult times such as these, we are certainly in more need of volunteers than ever before. Charitable organizations of all kinds are happy to have seen such a drastic uptick in volunteers. Even though many charities have had to adjust to social distancing, they’ve made more than enough use of the extra hands.

But many people have gone a little overboard. Over the past months, many people have taken their free time to volunteer work, finding new and innovative ways to donate their time – with some drawbacks.

Volunteer burnout is a common affliction in the field. Volunteering can be stressful, even when it feels good to help others. Burnout has many common signs – exhaustion, cynicism, detachment – all of which are fairly obvious to those who have experienced it. Pay attention to other volunteers and how they are dealing with their work.

Recognizing burnout is one thing, but how do you help those who are in the throes of burnout? Be slow at first, be sensitive to what the person in question is going through. It can be frustrating to want to continue volunteering but not feel as able to perform – it’s not uncommon to feel that burnout is a sign that they can’t volunteer at all. This isn’t the case, but be prepared for the burnt-out mind to think that.

Assure them that burnout isn’t uncommon, and it can happen to anyone. This isn’t a lack of ability, nor a sign of incompetence. It’s a natural reaction to the difficult, neverending work of volunteering. Help them think through why they are experiencing burnout – maybe they could take on a different role, or change their approach.

Encourage self-care strategies – taking on fewer volunteer hours is an excellent way to deal with burnout. Taking a break is necessary in all things, particularly when you are putting forth your labor. It’s better to be down a volunteer for a time than to lose a volunteer permanently.

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