Last night I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to join me this Saturday to help out at the local domestic violence shelter.  He’s got this pretty important job in the construction industry and knows a lot of about tiling and stuff, and the shelter was looking for folks to do stuff on Saturday that I had no doubt he could handle.  I thought if we did it together it might be fun.  He responded by telling me he had already signed on to ‘volunteer’ to help somewhere else and so if I wanted to help out at the shelter, I was going to be on my own.  I sent a brief email over to the person in charge, and said I could be there by 9:30 on Saturday morning.  Then I went to sleep, and when I woke up I felt so sad.

I have started to notice that ever since I signed on to volunteer at the non-profit organization that helps victims of domestic violence, I have been incredibly sad.  Only, it’s not necessarily for reasons that have anything to do with domestic violence, but rather more so for reasons that have to do with what might be an epidemic that’s sweeping the nation referred to by some as ‘volunteer burnout.’  Then again, it might be something else.

‘Volunteer Burnout’ is described by John Barrymore in the article below which begins by asking a simple question, “Do you feel sad, tired and stressed out?  Are you overwhelmed by all the things you have to do?”  It then goes on to talk about how you can sign on to ‘over-commit’ yourself and discusses how you’re not alone.  “Many adults have trouble using the word, “No,” Barrymore contends, and of course this is something I already know.

Only, I’m not so sure I feel ‘Volunteer Burnout’ because I have over-committed or rather feel a sense of sadness because my education and experience does not seem to be valued by the organization.  Perhaps, if I were doing something that seemed to be more in alignment with what I’m good at, maybe I would not feel so sad.  Ironically, there’s a quote tacked to my refrigerator that I happened to find in a bag from the boutique where purchases help this organization, and it says, “A person will do more when they feel appreciated.”

As with anything, moderation is key to having a good balance.  As much as I like to help out, I have to remember that it’s okay to put my own needs first and if an organization I am volunteering for does not seem to respect its volunteers or value others, it’s mission is faulty, no matter what it claims.  Non-profits need to remember that at the very core it’s those who give of their time, who deserve nothing less than the respect they profess to want for others.

I ended up sending an email over to the person in charge and saying I will not be able to make it on Saturday morning.  I have decided it will be okay to spend the day focusing on my own needs, rather than always giving of my time for others.  Keeping in mind one needs to put the oxygen mask on one’s self before they are any good to another, I think I need to just breathe.