We’ve long been told that being involved in charitable contributions or activities will help us feel better, and put us in the right frame of mind to be of service to others. But how does that directly help ease the symptoms of anxiety?
Currently in the United States, 40 million people suffer from anxiety disorders, making anxiety the most common mental health challenge, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. With such staggering numbers, it can be overwhelming to not only juggle the symptoms, but implement tools and techniques for alleviating those symptoms. However, recent research has shed some light on the correlation between giving back and anxiety relief. Below is a summary of what was discovered.
Helps lower blood pressure and manage stress
When we think about how giving back and being helpful makes us feel, we’re likely to use words like “humbling,” “good,” or “making a difference.” These words aren’t just feelings we’re sharing; they’re sensations that have a direct impact on our physiological state, which helps lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Corralling around stress to keep it from spinning out of control is a key element in managing anxiety and symptoms that may persist. Anxiety, when left untreated, spirals and snowballs, escalating far out of control and into chaos. If we can manage stress that feeds the symptoms of anxiety, we can get ahead of this disorder and place ourselves back in control. Ironically enough, also placing others in that equation is a formula for healing.
Finding passion for where you want to be of service
Giving back works wonderfully when we’re able to contribute to causes, people, or ideas that bring us joy. In such a mental state, we’re not exerting energy or effort on things that feel like work or a draining responsibility. Instead, we’re driven by a passion to help in areas that we’re drawn to. That drive then becomes selfless and truly altruistic, thus putting us in a state of mental mind that is both present and aware, as well as fulfilled and stress-free.
Feeling a sense of purpose for your contribution
Anxiety robs us of being present in our life. It disconnects us from the connections we are allowed to have with other people and the world at large. Giving back, in turn, gives us a sense of purpose. Even when we’re not aware of it, the idea of helping others truly comes back around to be of most service to ourselves. That purpose and motivation to offer help starts to create deeply grained habits in our life that then become pieces of self-definition. That kind of foundation building dispels the “what if” thoughts anxiety brings around, and puts us in a place of sincerity and clarity of who we are.
Connecting your story with others
Chances are that giving back, volunteering, or being involved with charity in some fashion will likely connect you to others who may be dealing with similar anxiety symptoms. Our desire and act of being there for other people create that bridge of open communication, where your story and experience may be just the relevant kind of experience someone else needs in that moment. We never know who is motivated by our own courage, and is therefore implementing changes for their own good.
Finding tools for your own recovery and healing
In acts of charity, we’re met with like-minded individuals who, in turn, become our support network. These people may offer help for your anxiety and symptoms in ways you wouldn’t have found, outside of volunteering opportunities. Likewise, it gives you the tools to build new friendships, open up in innovative solutions and problem-solving, and collaborate on projects that can guide you into deeper communication skills. At the end of the day, our giving nature comes back around – like good karma – to aid us in our own self-healing.
Here are some ideas to get you started, if you’re ready to ease your anxiety through giving back in your community:
- Join a local animal shelter and help with fostering, adoption events, kennels, and paperwork
- Find a “Meals on Wheels” program in your area, and offer to deliver meals to people who are struggling with anxiety themselves, and have a hard time leaving their homes
- Start a small group in your home for monthly meditation or wellness classes to ease stress and share tips on how to deal with anxiety
- Find a cause you’re truly passionate about, and ask them what kind of help they need at the moment
- If you’re creative, offer to create fliers, marketing documentation, or write grants for organizations that you’re happy to support
- Make a list of your favorite non-profits, and make a commitment to offer financial support every month, as much as you’re able
- Put together small “gift bags” with necessary items that you can hand out in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, or to people you may see on the street
- Join a gardening club or environmental group, and get involved with cleaning up a street or planting trees in season
No matter what you decide, follow your joy and get involved in any way that makes you comfortable. Giving back doesn’t have to block hours of your time, but the act of helping, even in the smallest way, is a seed well planted for yourself and others.