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At times, it can seem as if you're on a constant treadmill at work. There are deadlines to meet, people to consult, relationships to cultivate. You may feel as if you're under consistent stress, but you don't know how to manage it effectively. You could always quit your job, but your next position might be just as stressful.

Stress can take a tremendous toll on both body and spirit. It can leave you feeling fatigued, making it hard for you to concentrate. You may be more susceptible to illness as a result of your stress, resulting in increased absenteeism from work. You may be more prone to getting into accidents, and you may feel as if you're on edge much of the time.

There are a number of strategies you can employ to deal with stress. But perhaps one of the most rewarding is to engage in volunteer work. There is something so comforting about donating your time to helping someone else. The mere act can elevate your spirits, helping you to better cope with the stressors in your life. You are giving a tremendous gift—the gift of your time and talent. And you find your reward in the smiles on the faces of the people (or animals) you've assisted.

If you're considering volunteering, you don't want the search for volunteer opportunities to be stressful. Therefore, you'll want to make the process as simple as possible. A good resource can be your local newspaper. Often, the Sunday paper lists organizations that are looking for volunteers. The newspaper usually provides complete contact information, so you won't have to hunt around for a phone number.

Deciding which organization to volunteer for can be a challenge. There are so many causes worthy of our attention. For instance, there are groups that assist people in times of disaster…groups that lobby for research to find cures for debilitating diseases…homeless shelters…soup kitchens…and pet shelters. You might also consider volunteering at a school, where teaching assistants and mentors are always appreciated.

In order to decide where to put your talents to use, you might ask yourself some questions. For instance, how much time can you realistically devote to volunteer work? Are you limited to doing your volunteering in the evenings or on weekends? How much of your own money can you spend in connection with your volunteer work? What causes are the most important to you? The answers to these questions could help you to choose the volunteer opportunity that's right for you.

Next, you'll want to tour the volunteer facility. You want to get a sense of whether you will enjoy the work. If you find that the other volunteers are difficult to work with, it could simply produce more stress in your life. Usually, an initial tour will help to give you a good idea of what it would be like to actually volunteer at the facility. Also, be sure to find out if the organization offers training to its volunteers. This could be quite important, especially if you have only a nodding acquaintance with the work of the organization.

Volunteering does require commitment, and you might be wondering if that commitment will add additional stress to your life. Actually, the opposite will probably be true. If you find yourself being energized by your volunteer work, you'll be able to put your problems in better perspective. Knowing the difficulties that other people face can make your troubles seem quite negligible in comparison. However, you will want to make sure that you don't overcommit. Devote only a limited amount of time to your volunteer work, and resist the urge to do more. Otherwise, you could find yourself exhausted by the end of the week and unable to perform well on your job.

Volunteering can be one of the great joys in life. It is a privilege to serve other people, to make a difference in another person's life. Through your volunteer work, you'll be able to meet people you might otherwise not have the opportunity to encounter. You can forge friendships which can last a lifetime. You'll be contributing greatly to your neighborhood and your society, and your little corner of the world should be brighter because of it

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