There is an old adage that one of the best ways to take your mind off your own troubles is to redirect your energy toward helping someone else and there’s a reason this saying holds water. It’s true.
Transition is a part of the human experience. Those who learn to transition from one situation to another: to move, change, adapt and handle stress are the people on a track to success, especially when success is measured by a positive mental attitude and over all happiness about your life no matter what you do for a living or how much money you make.
Going away to college after a cozy life time at home is a huge transition for most young people and can prove to be a highly stressful time. Juggling new responsibilities such as time management, the logistics of getting from classes to your dorm or apartment, to a job, to the cafeteria, and ‘Wait – I have to do my own laundry?’ is a lot to handle. It is fairly common for college students to experience anxiety and depression at some point during their college experience. Instead of wallowing in the same pair of sweat pants that you’ve been wearing now for the last four days, take a few minutes to explore the many different options available for volunteerism in the community where you are pursuing your education.
The first step is to think about your interests and how you would enjoy or be best suited to helping out another person or a charity. Are you interested in the environment, do you love teaching younger kids how to play a sport or create an art project, are you skilled at some basic carpentry, do you own your own vehicle and have a clean driving record, or do you get fired up about social or government issues? What is your college major and would a specific type of volunteer activity help you have a greater knowledge of where you want to go with your career or be a stepping stone for a job opportunity down the road? Or would you like to do something completely outside of what you spend much of your time thinking about? There is no right or wrong answer; it is a very personal question to ask about how you want to give back and how you want to spend your time. More often than not, there are no special skills or talents required to make a difference in the life of another human being. As actor Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” For instance, there are many elderly who reside in communities where they have no family and perhaps many of their friends have already passed away. Having a college kid stop by a couple of times a week to share a cup of coffee, go for a walk, or help out with running an errand can truly brighten a senior’s day and be a hugely positive experience for the student.
Hit the Internet first by looking at some of these websites that will allow you to enter the location of where you’d like to volunteer and any keywords such as ‘environment’ ‘elderly’ ‘children’ ‘MS’ or ‘Cystic Fibrosis.’ Here are some links to great websites:
You’ll quickly find there are literally hundreds of opportunities for you to volunteer and varying degrees of commitment and responsibility required. Are you limited in your potential volunteer hours to an occasional free weekend? Charity 5K Race/Walks are always desperate for volunteers to help register participants and work on the course. Most charitable organizations will be happy for any help, no matter how limited.
Challenge yourself to step outside your boundaries and volunteer in ways that have you interacting on a one-on-one basis with people of any age that are in need. Nothing can boost self-esteem and a feeling of hope as working directly with another human being who needs a hand. “If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up,” said Booker T. Washington, one of the most famous and influential black men of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Volunteering is an easy way to learn new skills, feel better about yourself, give hope or inspiration to another person (many times, the volunteer is the one who becomes inspired!), and help develop your resume or CV.