You can help yourself when you help others. Be a volunteer in your community—at the community center, with the park district, or at your local hospital, for example. Volunteer work has many advantages. It gives you a chance to think about something other than the events that are causing you stress; it builds your self-esteem because you are helping people in need and in your community; and it can keep you from getting bored. When you volunteer, you meet new and interesting people and make new friends. You can learn new things.
Volunteer work can have a more practical side, as it did for fifteen-year-old Jay. “I never thought much about plants and flowers, except when we had a biology assignment,” Jay says. “Then the volunteer director at the community center told me that they needed people to plant flowers around the high school. I decided to sign up just to get away from home on the weekends. That’s when my parents seem to do most of their fighting, and it’s really causing me a lot of stress. I had to go to the plant nursery to pick up the plants. When I was there, I learned that there’s a lot more to flowers than just something for Mom on Mother’s Day.
“They are trying to grow healthy plants without using chemicals that are bad for the environment. I got so interested in the work, I started volunteering with the park district twice a month. I’m now planning to go into conservation or forestry after I finish high school. By the way, volunteering and doing something that interests me really did cut down on the amount of stress I feel. I don’t get the bad headaches I used to get when I had to listen to Mom and Dad fight.”
There are many ways to help yourself mentally and physically. Along with helping yourself, you may turn to others for help, too. Friends and family members, professional counselors, support groups and organizations are there to help when you are experiencing stress and the effects of stress. It’s all right to ask for help.