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  • Writer's pictureJace Cardona

Self-Care for JHB Volunteers

Volunteer Mental Health

Taking care of your own mental health as a volunteer for the JHB is imperative. In addition to your responsibilities, you have taken on this important work to serve your community. The stories you hear can be painful, and it is normal to be affected by them. An extreme form of this is called secondary traumatic stress. When this is combined with burnout, which is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, negativity/cynicism, and not being effective in your work, it is called compassion fatigue.


What is Self-Care?

Self-care is based on developing an increased awareness of one’s needs to be able to better tend to them. This includes eating, sleeping, exercising, and relaxing, but also tending to your social and emotional needs. Self-care can help you manage stress to maintain good mental health and be an effective JHB member. If you are struggling with your mental health, it is advisable to seek professional support.


What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an active relaxation technique that involves the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment to increase internal and external awareness through your senses. It is a proven and effective way to relieve stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can be difficult at first, but it gets progressively easier the more you practice. Meditation is a well known form of mindfulness in which the breath is used to help increase presence. However, any intentional act of trying to stay present, such as making an effort to notice your surroundings more than usual, can be considered mindfulness.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is an example of an active relaxation technique you can use to practice mindfulness. This involves focusing attention on tensing and then relaxing the muscles in different parts of your body to bring more awareness to your physical sensations. Start with your head or toes. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds before repeating with another group of muscles, working your way up or down the body. This can be done alone or in a group.


Self-Care with Others

Besides mindfulness, there are more things you can do as a group to encourage a culture of self-care including:

  • Asking for and offering support when it is needed.

  • Making time to check in with each other about how you are feeling in-between hearings. Talk about your hopes and fears.

  • Preparing for hearings by discussing each other’s needs and how you can best support one another.

  • Debriefing after hearings by talking about what went well and what you wish you could have done differently.

  • Sharing materials and resources you find helpful with each other.

 

Self-care is not a treatment or a cure, but it is a way to lay a strong foundation and promote resilience to help you get through stressful times. Although it is called self-care, it should not always be done alone. Social support is essential for our well-being so that we can help take care of one another and build stronger communities.


For more on self-care, check out the new Mental Health Guide for JHBs in RI from the “JHB Essentials for 2023-2024.” View the entire guide and the rest of the essentials HERE or navigate to the Juvenile Justice page under Programs.

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