When I think of October, grainy vignettes of nights spent in Robarts during extended hours begin cycling through my memory. Moving images in sepia of myself weeping as I struggle to finish multiple essays due the next day; or in grayscale, of myself flustered as I burn my tongue on my second pot of coffee in an attempt to stay lucid while I rush to learn neglected chapters because the midterm is in nine hours, are two of the many depressing images that I automatically associate with this spooky month. Sometimes, for tolerability’s sake, I accompany these memories with a cameo of a sad panda playing a tiny violin. Essentially, October has come to represent an exhaustingly, unhealthy concoction of sleepless nights and excessive stress.
Surprisingly, this is where volunteerism has swooped in to save the day.
Now I know it seems pretty counterintuitive to be adding more to an already full plate. BUT it turns out that by spending my Sunday in volunteer mode, I also was very directly tending to self-care, and my mind and body loved me for it.
On Sunday, I took part in an initiative called Love Toronto. Organized by C3 Toronto, a church made up of young professionals and creative urbanites, the initiative connects volunteers with charitable organizations to help with tasks that require a healthy amount of people power. I had a choice to volunteer my time with four organizations: Habitat for Humanity, Scott Mission, Matthew House, and Fight 4 Freedom. I chose Scott Mission.
I started the day on site at 10 AM where I met all of the other volunteers for a briefing before our work commenced. There were donuts, muffins, fresh coffee and a lot of smiling faces. The atmosphere was amazing, considering it was a very wet Sunday morning and we were preparing to work outdoors to tend to their day care’s play ground. Not a single person complained, not even a little.
After the briefing we were assigned tasks. I was given a rake and for the next three hours, the rake and I would become one under the banner of rescuing the ground from the onslaught of fallen leaves and stray playground mulch. Not being someone who rakes on the regular, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I quickly learned a very important aspect of the chore: raking is physically demanding!
At the end of the day the team and I were able to accomplish cleaning up the playground to the extent that it looked like a new space. We were also fortunate enough for the rain to subside, obviously subdued by our iron will to volunteer. What a great feeling to be in that moment where we could look at what we were able to accomplish in the time we gave up in service of an organization like Scott Mission.
So how did volunteering end up saving me from feeling stressed? Meeting new people in a new setting doing something I consider ultimately good left me feeling very happy with myself. This helped ease the burden of feeling stress because who has time to be stressed when you’re happy? Also, my selfless act of helping other people was kind of self-serving in a way. At the end I walked away feeling like I could conquer the world with a renewed confidence in my abilities to get things done!
The specific task I was assigned was also great in helping me feel less stressed. As I mentioned above, raking is physically demanding, and so in volunteering I got a bit of work out too! Sweating a bit or a lot is a great way to de-stress, and volunteering allowed me to do just that! This Sunday confirmed to me what quick Google search repeatedly tells me: volunteering is good for your mind, body and soul!
If you are interested in volunteering I’ve left some helpful links below. And if you are an avid volunteer, leave a comment below letting me know where you find time to volunteer and how it’s helped you!