Why volunteer?

Hello and welcome to my latest blog post about volunteering.

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I have written this post for the reader who may have been interested in volunteering for a while and not known where to start. Or for someone who may be curious as to how volunteering could benefit them and the local community.

There are several areas in the community that offer volunteer opportunities. According to the Open University, there are several areas of work where you could volunteer and include:

  • Administration, IT, management and finance

Many organisations depend on volunteers to help them with a wide range of “office” type work – from photocopying and envelope “stuffing” right through to helping with more specialist areas such as School Governors and Organisation Trustees:

  • School governors

School governors form the largest volunteer workforce in the UK with around 350,000 governor places. Governors play a crucial role in the teams that run schools, helping to ensure that all pupils develop as individuals and receive a good quality education. Governors have responsibility for the strategic management of the school, working closely with the headteacher and staff. As a governor you will attend regular governing body meetings, visit the school to meet staff, see the children at work, participate in the life of the school and attend special events.

  • Trustees

Trustees, (also known as management committee members, or Board members) play an essential part in the running of voluntary organisations. They are responsible for ensuring that a voluntary organisation has a clear strategy, that it remains true to its original vision, and that it complies with all necessary rules and legal obligations.

  • Advice, information giving, counselling, listening and befriending

Many organisations also rely on volunteers to provide a wide range of support to individuals who are in difficulty or don’t know where to turn. They often provide training to enable their volunteers to undertake this sort of work and the knowledge and skills gained can often be used by the volunteers in other parts of their lives.

Organisations under this category could include the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Samaritans and various counselling, support agencies. Such as Mind, or Cruse Bereavement Care.

  • Event organising, fundraising, marketing, campaigning, public speaking

Many organisations rely on volunteers to support their work by undertaking a range of activities to promote their organisation and its work, to the wider community. Some but not all give training to help volunteers develop these skills but many welcome volunteer contributions to support the work of those who already have them.

  • Fundraising

All charitable organisations seek fundraising volunteers to help raise income levels and fund their work. One benefit of fundraising is that you can work for charities in which you have a strong belief. It may be as simple as rattling a collection bucket one weekend, or you could get involved in working in shops, developing new ideas, educational visits to schools and running events.

 

Other areas of volunteering could include working in conservation and wildlife projects and working in classrooms and schools to support the learning of children, for example by reading to children. I’m sure there are many more volunteer opportunities that I have missed out!

 

Benefits of volunteering:

According to Timebank there are a number of benefits to volunteering, including some of the following:

  • Giving your CV a boost

Whether you are looking to study a particular course, such as medicine. Or looking for a means of getting back into work, or changing career paths, volunteering in a relevant area to your dream job, or course, could give your application the boost it needs to get you noticed by recruiters.

  • Get back into work

Volunteering could be a valuable means of filling any gaps in your employment and getting a reference that could help you when applying for paid positions.

You could also try different areas of work as a volunteer in order to get a taster of the work and see if it is an area that you would be happy working in long-term.

This could be particularly helpful if you are currently looking for work, or wanting to change direction in your career.

  • Improve your confidence

Volunteering could help you improve your confidence, as you may get the opportunity to try something that you have never done before. You get to meet new like-minded people, who are likely to be as passionate about the same cause as you are.

You are likely to have the opportunity to develop new skills, which can also help to improve your confidence.

  • Improve your health

Now this is an interesting one. Whilst volunteering to help others, you could be improving your own physical and mental health.

The following research highlights some of the benefits of volunteering: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf

 

My own experiences of volunteering:

I have volunteered in some capacity since around the age of 17 years. At various stages in my life and for various reasons.

Following on from my Facebook Live video on my Facebook page BreathworksMK: Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling, I would like to share a couple examples of volunteer work that I have done in recent years and how they have benefitted me.

  • Inpatient Unit Assistant

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Now I know that working in a Hospice may not at first seem appealing, as they are often associated with death and dying. However in my experience a Hospice is a very positive place in which to be and in which to work.

I was first drawn into Hospice work after a family member with terminal cancer spent some time in a Hospice. I got to see first-hand how beautiful a Hospice setting is, how kind and compassionate the staff are and how peaceful a place like this can be when you are at the end-stage of a terminal illness.

I wanted to give something back and help to support the vital work that a Hospice does for both patients and their families.

Working on an In-Patient Unit such as the one at St Francis can involve many job tasks, a main part of the role being delivering food and drinks to patients and their family members, keeping the kitchen areas clean and tidy and restocking coffee and tea supplies!

One of my aspirations is to volunteer for the counselling service at a Hospice such as this one. I hope that my work on the Inpatient Unit if the first step towards achieving this.

 

  • Cruse Bereavement Care

Another volunteer position that I’ve had a really positive experience with is volunteering for Cruse Bereavement Care as a Bereavement Support Volunteer.

After completing the Awareness in Bereavement training with Cruse, I have worked with around 15 clients to date, all of whom have experienced bereavement, or a loss of some kind. Clients are offered up to six one hour sessions in the branch of Cruse where I work, as an opportunity to talk about the bereavement, or losses that they have experienced with a trained volunteer.

I find this work extremely rewarding and have received tremendous support in my work from my Supervisor and Manager at Cruse. The change in clients that you can witness in a relatively short period of time always amazes me and is a real privilege to be a part of 🙂

 

Some sources of further information:

 

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On this website you can type in where you live in the search function and it brings up a number of local volunteer vacancies.

 

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Here is a bit more information about the Hospice of St Francis:

The Hospice of St Francis provides free care and support when it matters most to over 2,000 people every year.

We do everything possible to help people living with a progressive, or life-limiting condition to live their life well and on their own terms, especially when times are tough. We also support families, carers and children affected by the illness of a loved one.

We have five volunteers to every paid member of staff and incredible supporters who help us raise over £5 million each year. We simply couldn’t provide our life-enriching, free care, without their dedication and commitment.

Here is a current list of volunteer vacancies at St Francis Hospice: http://www.stfrancis.org.uk/support-us/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities

 

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TimeBank is a national volunteering charity, started in 2000.

They recruit and train volunteers to deliver mentoring projects to tackle complex social problems. They also work with businesses to engage their staff in volunteering.

TimeBank believe that great volunteering can transform the lives of both volunteers and beneficiaries by building stronger, happier and more inclusive communities.

 

 

I hope that this blog has been useful if you have been considering volunteering. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Until next time,

 

Warm wishes,

Mary 🙂

Grief and chronic pain

Welcome 🙂

Hello again to the followers of my blog and Facebook page BreathworksMK – Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling.

I hope that you are enjoying the glorious sunshine this weekend. I have had some much needed rest and relaxation with my family following a hectic work period.

A key practice of Mindfulness in Daily life as presented in the 8-week Breathworks Mindfulness for Health program is the idea of pacing of daily activities as a means of avoiding tipping into the boom-and-bust cycle. I will give details of this later in this blog post.

Here’s me enjoying the sun in my garden and definitely enjoying pacing myself! 🙂

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I would like to share with you today some of the ideas from my presentation that I gave this week on ‘Creative Ways of Managing Chronic Pain’.

I had been excited to share this presentation for quite some time, as most of you who follow my page probably know.

I find it healing and motivating for me to be able to share my own experiences and what has helped me in my own chronic pain journey, in order to help others.

One of the key ideas from the presentation was linking the process of learning to live with a chronic pain, or other long-term heath condition to the process of grieving following the death of a loved one, as originally described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969.

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I originally heard this idea in a talk given by Vidyamala Burch (who is shown above) in January 2018 on the Sounds True Mindfulness Summit. Where she linked her life journey and coming to terms with her chronic pain in the stages: Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance and Flourishing.

This immediately resonated with my own life experiences and journey towards accepting my own chronic pain condition and I would like to share some of this with you today:grief 3

Denial

Denial for me was a stage of being cut off from my body, by ignoring my body and it’s pain signals. In order that I could continue with my work and my desire to exercise and keep fit.

There was a lot of losses associated with this stage, including losing jobs, losing relationships and losing independence, both physically and financially, when I could no longer continue to deny the pain.

Bargaining

Bargaining was an interesting and somewhat frustrating stage. This was a phase of my life where I was chasing a fantasy outcome, a magical cure for the pain. On the face of it I was doing lot’s of healthy activities, but I was always feeling like a failure during this time, as these activities didn’t cure my pain. Typical thoughts were:

‘If I do enough Yoga it can cure my pain’

 

‘If I meditate enough it can cure my pain’

 

 

Acceptance

 

Acceptance for me is a stage that took a long time. There wasn’t one thing that helped in this process.

It was a gradual turning towards my body and the experiencing of pain. Realising that I could experience pain, but I need not suffer. As via the process of a regular meditation practice you gradually learn that pain is an unpleasant sensory experience, that waxes and wanes moment-to-moment. Also that the pain I once felt was overwhelming my whole body, may actually only be a pain in my lower back and that I could broaden my experience to include the pleasant aspects of my experience, whilst also softening into the pain using my breath. Pleasant experiences could include, the warmth of the sun on my skin, a pleasant breeze, some relaxing music etc…

I’m not saying that acceptance is an easy process, nor that I feel accepting every day. Every person with chronic pain, or other long-term health condition will know that pain varies from day-to-day and that there are likely to be both good and bad pain days. However meditation for me has given me back control of my chronic pain and on the whole the good days for me now outnumber the bad.

Key to managing pain is the idea of pacing, as presented in the Mindfulness in Daily Life part of the Breathworks meditation program. A summary of the Boom and Bust cycle is summarised in the following document.

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Flourishing

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Flourishing as described by Vidyamala, sounds like an amazing stage of life to get to. I must admit that this is a stage that I am still working on.

Flourishing is an opening up to life and using your experiences to add value to the world and those around you. This is my exact motivations for wanting to train as a counsellor and mindfulness teacher. Using my life experiences and what I have learnt to benefit the life of others. It is this process of making meaning that is flourishing 🙂

I would love to hear what you think of this process of learning to live with pain and other long-term health conditions and whether it is something that resonates with your own experiences?

I will leave you with this video of Vidyamala talking to Rick Hanson about her experiences of learning to live with chronic pain and flourishing whilst doing so:

https://www.thefoundationsofwellbeing.com/FWBchronicpain

 

Until next time.

Warm wishes,

Mary 🙂

Katie Piper – What’s in My Head

Hello,

Lovely to check in with you all again.

Today I had the fantastic privilege of being able to watch Katie Piper’s new show ‘What’s in My Head’. Katie is touring the country with this show and we managed to catch the show in Kettering.

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So I’m not sure how many of you are aware of Katie Piper’s story, but in 2008 at the age of 24 years, she was attacked with acid and suffered pretty horrendous injuries.

Katie was a model and TV presenter and her face was damaged so much by the acid that most of her face was removed. She lost her sight and as a result of ingesting some of the acid she suffered internal injuries in the throat, oesophagus and stomach and had to undergo numerous procedures to rebuild her face and to open her throat and nostrils up, as it would close up due to the scar tissues from the burns contracting.

It is really scary to think that life and what we expect from our life path can change in an instant like this. This is something that I can relate to in my own life with my teeth and jaw issues and is something that I will be drawing upon in my upcoming presentation on chronic pain.

Here are some photo’s of Katie, before and after the acid attack:

Katie Piper shows just how far she has come as she wows in chocolate one-shoulder dress at TV Choice Awards 4

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This is what Katie Piper looks like more recently:

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I have always followed Katie’s story of recovery since seeing her documentary on channel 4 called ‘My Beautiful Face’.

I have always been inspired by how Katie has used such negative and devastating personal experiences and been able to use this to help others in such a positive way through her charity The Katie Piper Foundation: https://katiepiperfoundation.org.uk/ and some of the TV shows and documentaries that she has done for channel 4.

Here she is explaining her story on a Ted Ex talk:

 

In the show Katie shares really openly and honestly her struggles with losing her identity, as it was during that time, as a young lady in her twenties, who never even considered disability, or illness in herself, or other family members, and who considered herself to be ‘invincible’.

Katie talked of struggles of losing her looks and the struggles of not being able to eat due to her internal injuries and losing tremendous amounts of weight because of this. She also talks of struggles with anxiety and of not being able to make connections with others and struggles with agoraphobia following the attack. She also talks of using alcohol as a means of self-medicating and numbing the pain. Also losing most of her twenties to Hospital treatments for her various injuries.

All things that I think most of us would be able to relate to in one form, or another…

Katie also shared some lovely strategies that she has used in her own recovery. One that I really liked was the use of positive affirmations, which according to Wikipedia are:

“Affirmations in New Thought and New Age terminology refer primarily to the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment—fostering a belief that “a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything. More specifically, an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should be repeated to one’s self and written down frequently. For affirmations to be effective, it is said that they need to be present tense, positive, personal and specific.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmations_(New_Age)

What she does is collect positive affirmations and print them off, write them down and post them all over her downstairs bathroom. In the interval she had a mock up toilet in the foyer and asked the audience to write down their favorite affirmation and post them on the wall. Here are some pictures:

 

I like positive affirmations myself and tend to collect them on one of my Pinterest boards.

There are hundreds of affirmations that you could use, some examples I’ve found this evening are:

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Do you have a favorite positive affirmation/s that you have used and found to be helpful?

The key to making positive affirmations more likely to work seems to be making sure they are in the present tense, they contain positive words, they are relevant to what you are trying to achieve and you repeat them several times over the course of the day.

There’s no formula for how often or how many times you should repeat a positive affirmation.

Many people set a routine that works for them, like repeating the affirmation 20 times, 3 times a day.

The brain is able to rewire itself via a process called neuroplasticity. So similarly to a daily meditation practice, if you are focused when repeating your chosen affirmation, and you repeat it frequently, it is more likely to be successful. Imagine that your brain is like any other muscle that we would train in the gym. The more we train the stronger the muscle gets…

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There were many other strategies that Katie shared for recovery. Such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Writing
  • Spending time with family
  • Spending time with friends
  • More chocolate! 😉

I highly recommend catching the show if you get the opportunity, to learn more about Katie and see if some of these strategies would be helpful to you in your life.

If you can’t catch a show, Katie has written several books. One of the books that was at the show was this one:

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This is available on Amazon at the moment for £4: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confidence-Secret-Katie-Piper/dp/1784295205/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524180529&sr=8-1&keywords=katie+piper+confidence

 

I’ll leave you with one of the slides that she shared on Anxiety Girl. I think this can be one of my super powers too…

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Please get in touch and share some of your own strategies for recovery, would be great to hear from you.

Warm wishes,

Mary