Wednesday 26 June 2019

The benefits of volunteering on your mental wellbeing

Whether you’re a busy professional with a hectic lifestyle or retired with plenty of time on your hands, there are lots of opportunities for volunteer work that you can fit into your schedule.

Whatever your reasons are for wanting to volunteer, you’ll find that volunteering your time can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.

Social contact

Working alongside other like-minded volunteers is a great way to make new connections and improve your social skills. Having this kind of support network around us can give us a sense of belonging, thus creating more positive thoughts about ourselves.

Combats stress and anxiety

As well as enjoying social contact, helping others can be a huge mood booster. Volunteer work helps you forget many of your own personal worries and, instead, encourages you to focus your attention on someone else’s needs. You’ll find lots of outdoor volunteer work too, which can release endorphins and provide you with some much-needed vitamin D.

Helps fight depression

When we’re suffering from depression, we tend to feel worthless and self-critical as well as lethargic. By surrounding ourselves with other volunteers, we increase our social network, and this can prevent feelings of loneliness. Helping others gives us a purpose in life and it can increase our self-esteem and self-worth.

Giving makes us happy

When we put others’ needs before our own without expecting anything in return, it gives us a great sense of achievement and makes us feel good about ourselves. For many people, the act of giving is far more rewarding and brings us more happiness than receiving.

Physical wellbeing

Studies have shown that taking care of our physical wellbeing can have a knock-on effect on our mental wellbeing. A lot of volunteer work involves activities that keep us exercising without us possibly realising it. As well as lowering blood pressure, exercise is one of the best ways to keep us mentally in shape and it’s great for boosting mood too.

Working with animals

Studies have shown that animals can play a part in improving mental wellbeing. The mere act of stroking or playing with an animal can help us to feel relaxed and calm. If you’re an animal lover but are unable to keep a pet at home, then voluntary work with animals could be the perfect choice for you.

If you would like to find local volunteer work, the Do-it Trust has lots of information and advice as to where to find suitable opportunities, from first aid and fundraising to support work.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

How to overcome shyness at work

Not everyone is blessed with confidence and for those who suffer from shyness, many situations that others might not even give a second thought, can appear daunting, especially in a place of work.

The Effects of Shyness

Shyness can be almost debilitating to some and can hold a person back from achieving their goals at work. You might avoid public situations, be too scared to speak up for yourself or suffer from anxiety,  and you may feel lonely, but remember that you're not alone and there are ways to overcome your shyness at work.

Be Kind to Yourself

Besides your family and close friends, your shyness might not be quite so obvious to people who don’t know you. Often our inner critic is eager to put us down when others most likely wouldn’t. Try to focus on your positive attributes rather than the negatives and make a list of everything you love about yourself. Remind yourself that you do have a lot to offer and that your thoughts and opinions are equally as important as those of your colleagues.

Face your fears It’s not uncommon to play out a situation or conversation in your head that hasn’t even taken place, so try not to overthink and create negative outcomes where there are none, although this might seem easier said than done. Ask yourself what you're afraid of and what’s the worst that can happen.

Avoid negative people
Regardless of whether we're shy or confident, there will always be negative people who like to put others down in order to make themselves feel better. Remember - this isn’t personal towards you and it’s more of a reflection of their insecurities. If you do come across these types of people, try to avoid them and don’t allow them to steal your energy.

Push your boundariesThis might seem like an impossible task, but once you start to step outside of your comfort zone and push your boundaries, the next time becomes a whole lot easier. Set yourself achievable goals such as contributing to a discussion in a meeting, and take note of people’s responses and reactions – are they really as bad as you’d imagined?

Small steps like this can really help increase your confidence over time and you might even realise that others appreciate your input.

Observe yourself and othersMake a conscious effort to observe people you admire. Listen to how they speak and take note of their body language. How does this differ to yours? What do you admire about them? Practise imitating some of their traits on your own in a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Try looking at yourself in the mirror, keep eye contact, keep a confident posture, smile and speak clearly. The more your practise this, the more natural it will feel and the easier it will be to put into practice in the workplace.

Practise confidence building techniques Try building your confidence up outside of the workplace with people you don’t know. Perhaps introduce yourself and start a conversation with a stranger – they don’t know you and you’ll probably never meet them again, so what does their opinion matter? Initially, you can keep the conversation short and build it up over time.

You can then try something similar at work. Maybe break the ice with a colleague on your lunch break by asking how their weekend was.

Visualisation techniquesFear is often caused by our own thoughts rather than actual events, so try to change your thought process by visualising positive outcomes. If there’s a presentation coming up at work that you’ve been dreading, imagine everyone listening intently to what you have to say and praising you afterwards for your excellent delivery.

Consider the benefitsRemember what you have to gain from overcoming shyness at work. Maybe you’ll make new friends, you’ll gain greater respect from your colleagues and boss, or you might even get that promotion and pay rise you’ve been hoping for.

The more you practise these techniques, the easier it will get and the more confident you will become.

For more techniques to boost self confidence, take a look at the Very Well Mind website.