At RNIB, we value the health and wellbeing of our volunteers.  

We understand that we need to look after our emotional and physical wellbeing to be able to do our volunteering roles well.

We’ve collated advice from RNIB’s Organisational Development Team about staff and volunteer wellbeing, to help us to look after ourselves so we can support others through our volunteering.

Five ways to wellbeing

1. Social connection

Social connection is the feeling of being close and connected to others. Social relationships can enrich your every-day life and be a buffer against mental ill-health. Here’s some ideas to help you connect to those around you or make new connections:

  • Pick up the phone and talk to someone instead of sending an email or text.
  • Ask how someone’s weekend was and listen to their reply.
  • Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is.
  • Be brave and speak to someone you’ve never spoken to before.

Liggy Webb, a leading resilience author of books, including Resilience: How to cope when everything around you keeps changing, makes some recommendations for enabling our wellbeing regarding social connections:

  • Express your feelings to others and ask for help with solving problems. You’ll get different perspectives that you’ve not thought of before.
  • Learn to say no and maintain personal boundaries.
  • Where possible, reduce the amount of time you spend with people who cause you stress.  

2. Physical activity and rest

Staying active and resting well are key components of our wellbeing. Research shows that regular activity is linked to lower occurrences of stress, depression and anxiety. Being physically active slows the typical decline of memory and concentration attributed to aging. 

Physical activity is often one of the first things we cut out when we’re stressed and feel overwhelmed, yet, exercising releases happiness hormones. So finding an activity you really enjoy will help you.  Walking outdoors, even for a short time, has great benefit, while setting and achieving goals is a great way to boost confidence and good feelings. 

RNIB's Rebecca Garner shares some of her ideas for wellbeing: 

  • Exercise – at home or outside - there are plenty of great videos on YouTube showing what you can do at home.
  • Get outside into nature.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Take part in activities you enjoy – you could try arts and crafts or adult colouring.
  • Eat well.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Do kind things for others.

Getting enough sleep is vital to good health. A regular routine, regulating bedtimes and morning alarms can really help to protect this vital time and ensure you get enough rest each day.  

3. Self-awareness and self-care 

As volunteers, we’re often in the habit of giving to others, but we need to take care of ourselves too.  Give yourself permission to take time for yourself.  After a stressful day, make a point of doing something to show kindness and compassion to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a large gesture, simply think of the things that make you feel better and make an effort to carry one or two of them out. 

After a long bath or some time out, you may be aware that you feel better for it. Indeed, many studies show that being self-compassionate is good for your mental health. 

Rachael, a Community Connect volunteer, tells us: “I love living life to the full, spending time with friends and family, eating out, going on holiday, to the theatre and to concerts.  This is how I relax and destress: 

"I play loud music - power ballads, Take That, love songs or 90s dance depending on my mood.
I have a lovely hot shower and use some beauty products.
I eat chocolate, speak with friends and family, and spend the evening watching my favourite TV shows.

"Being aware of what is going on in the present moment directly improves your wellbeing, so savour the present moment. Take notice of the environment around you, be mindful of where you are and what is surrounding you."    

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your situation or worrying about what might happen in the future, a short mindfulness session can give you time out to pause, rest your mind and help you feel better in the moment. Listen to this short wellbeing podcast from RNIB’s Chris Simpson to find out more about mindfulness and some apps that will coach you through to some peaceful moments. 

4. Learning and wellbeing

Continued learning throughout life increases our self-esteem and confidence. It encourages interaction with others and goal setting can give us purpose and a sense of achievement. Engaging in work or educational activities can help fight depression, and learning new things is great for our wellbeing.

What could you learn about next?  Maybe you would enjoy reading a book or interesting article, complete crosswords, sudoku puzzles or learn an instrument?  

Resilience specialist Liggy Webb suggests you should:

  • View significant events as opportunities (such as a job interview or a family occasion) to show what you can do – showcase your skills and believe in yourself when you face challenges.

  • Prepare for different eventualities. If you’re feeling anxious about trying something new, write down all the possibilities that could happen and prepare for anything that could come your way. Preparation will help you to feel confident and empowered.  

5. Giving to other people

As a volunteer, you’re already familiar with the concept that performing just one act of kindness per week is linked to increased wellbeing. People who are interested in helping others are generally happier. While you may not be able to do your usual RNIB volunteering role, what are simple things you can do? These might be:

  • Something kind for a friend, family or stranger.
  • Join a community group.
  • Thank someone.
  • Smile and say good morning.
  • Give someone a compliment. 
  • Commit to an act of kindness once a week for six weeks and keep a note of how you feel.  

Additional support 

There are times in our lives when we all need expert help. Many organisations offer specialist support, and if you’re experiencing issues that it would be helpful to talk about further, you can get help and support from expert organisations. We’ve listed two below.  

If at any point you have any safeguarding concerns, please email [email protected], call RNIB's Helpline on 0303 123 9999, or contact your local social services team.  Where appropriate, please contact the Police directly. For Samaritans, call 116 123 and  Citizens Advice can be found online.

Keeping in touch

So much of our wellbeing depends on us feeling connected to others. Your volunteer manager will be keeping in touch with you and updating you as far as returning to volunteering, but if you’d like to get in touch with another member of the team, then please call 0303 123 9999 (option 4) or email [email protected] to contact the Volunteering Team, who will be happy to help you.  .

Each month the Volunteering team sends out volunteer newsletters. Please read them to stay up to date. If you’ve missed it, you can find the most recent version here. You can also follow RNIB on social media to feel more connected to our news, fundraising and campaigns. You’ll find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.