Purpose//

How Volunteering Can Be Your Personal Chill Pill

Giving back is one of the most unexpected methods of self-care.

Malte Mueller/ Getty Images
Malte Mueller/ Getty Images

“Have you ever heard the expression, “take a chill pill?”  Well, from the moment I heard it, I decided the expression had my name on it.  After all, it was my way of telling myself, “Stacey, you need to please calm down, please relax!” Yes, life has its stressors, especially in today’s age of anxiety.  Being back in the work force several years now, not only as a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, an aspiring writer (www.staceyinsideout.com), and keeping up with the house, the bills, having my grown children coming and going, I found my life too busy and my time too short to really relax.

Sure, I go out dancing, I walk, I meditate, and these things do help and often give me some temporary refuge from the daily grind, but afterwards, it seems like the world rushes back into my head so quickly that I don’t even remember the tranquility.  The world spins so quickly, I wonder sometimes if gravity will keep me down with the 24/7 “in-your-face” news or the constant barrage of emails, text messages and never-ending to-do lists. 

I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I needed something to relieve the stress of my everyday life. Then I was introduced to a woman’s Zionist organization called Hadassah.  

Shortly thereafter, by happenstance, I clicked on a link on the Hadassah website page and I was introduced to advocacy work.  Honestly, I did not even really know what advocacy was, and if not for former California State Senator Fran Pavley giving me the courage to speak my mind, I likely would have sat idly by and missed a great opportunity.  But this article is not about advocacy work or Hadassah.  It is about the well-being that I found by engaging myself in volunteer work.  

I had volunteered from time-to-time at an old age home, my children’s’ school and the local creek clean-up, but I never dove in. I waded in the shallow end.  It wasn’t until I found something that truly engaged me that I felt my heart beat and when it did, I started taking volunteering seriously.  I recognized the more I did, the more I wanted to do. 

And, soon I had become aware that it wasn’t about giving of my time, it was something I was receiving, something really big.  What was this sensation coming over me?  My volunteer work felt like some sort of intoxicant.  

From the moment I immersed myself in the heart of Hadassah, I found a place of calm.  My nervous energy found a home.  My anxiety was anchored, and life-long friendships began to emerge.  

My day-to-day obligations and appointments remained steady, but somehow, I managed to find time to volunteer.  I would get to my office extra early just so I could leave early to volunteer at a breast cancer event or new member event. I am so grateful for my computer and this thing I still don’t understand called the “cloud,” because I was able to take my work on the road while I advocated on issues and policies that mattered to me and humanity. Sometimes tired, but never too tired to be part of something bigger than myself.  I found that the more I volunteered, the more time I found to do it.  The more I volunteered, the more opportunities came my way and the more invigorated I became.  Suddenly, I was taking on challenges that I would never have dreamed of before.

When I think back, I often don’t recognize myself.  How did I suddenly become an advocate; a woman with a voice that was meant to be heard?  It happened like magic; It was bashert; Yes, it was meant to be!”  When I spoke about concerns about my skill set and ability to mingle with elected representatives to discuss policies, I was encouraged and told that I could do it.  When confidence in myself was lacking, Hadassah lifted me up.  I had never stepped out of my comfort zone like this before. 

One opportunity to volunteer my time took me on a plane and landed me in Sacramento and I have never looked back.  I had found my voice.  And, nine months later when I had an idea to help stop human trafficking in California, I was determined to return to Sacramento and become fully engaged as an advocate.  Still frightened,  Hadassah lent me the courage as I met with seven California state legislators.  Who knew that CA State Senator Henry Stern, who remembered me from our previous meeting, would take my idea and run with it?  In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would play an integral role in the passage of 2016’s California’s Senate Bill 225.  I like to think that because of volunteering, someone’s life is being saved; because it actually might be true. The bill that I was instrumental in getting passed requires restaurants, hotels, motels, rest stops, and similar locations to post warning signs with hot line phone numbers and other information regarding human trafficking. 

Looking in the mirror, this was not the face I was familiar with.  This was a woman I was getting to know and I really liked what I saw and how I felt.  Several years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be on a first name basis with politicians and legislators,  especially for somebody who often found herself scared and apprehensive.  And, what’s even better is that I liked myself even more.  It was on the wings of Hadassah that I developed skills to advocate.  I found I had a voice in our democracy.  I found I had talents I would have never tapped into had I not volunteered.  And I found relief from the stress of my everyday life   

I find that by leaving my comfort zone and putting myself out there, I am developing, learning and growing.  It may seem crazy, but the more I give of myself, the more love I feel.  I mean, you can’t really measure love or happiness, but for me, volunteering has made me feel more love and great happiness.  And after a meeting with one of our representatives and a three-hour ride back home, I got my “chill pill” moment in more ways than I ever dreamed.  My stress is down, I have purpose, I am involved, I feel relaxed, I am ready for bed. I volunteered.

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