It’s probably fair to describe me as one of those ‘busy people’. With my work, family, community and church commitments I have a full and fulfilling life. From personal experience though, I am aware that there is a balance to be found. If I am not careful, I don’t make enough time for myself, my stress levels creep up and my whole wellbeing suffers. I know how closely linked my mental and physical health are, so I try to proactively do things I know are ‘good for me’.
Volunteering and giving time to others is a proven way to look after your own mental health. I have discovered nine wonderful ways Girls’ Brigade helps me thrive.
Work with young people – quite frankly it’s energising, enlightening, and keeps me young(er). My group choose which badgework to do, which keeps it relevant for them and more interesting for me.
Open doors – there’s no other way of putting it, evidence of training and leadership responsibility looks great on a CV, job or Uni application. It has helped me, and I happily support others along their own journey. Having hopes and plans for the future gives me something positive to focus on, and a goal to work towards
Network with like-minded people – locally, regionally, nationally, internationally. Our shared purpose and the rise of social media has really enhanced this in recent years. I love the realisation that I’m part of a much bigger movement, it makes me accountable but also provides support
Discover new things – craft, games, places, words. Trying new experiences stops me getting stuck in a rut. Young people’s language changes every few months. And explaining at work the next day why I’ve got paint / clay / glitter in my hair is always interesting.
Engage with the world – talking about issues like mental health, and raising awareness of and responding against injustice, gives me hope for the future. When I’m getting stuck in my own work-based bubble, it helps to have a reason to think about other people and situations.
Real-life matters – Girls’ Brigade equips and encourages me to talk to young women about sticky-issues such as identity, the environment, healthy relationships, healthy lifestyles, money, and much more. These conversations help me reflect on my own experience, it’s often the only time I do!
Faith-sharing – helping others explore their faith helps me explore mine. I’m sadly not someone who has a well-developed bible-reading habit, so finding ways to share with others gives me structure too
Unwind – Girls’ Brigade is a great excuse to decorate biscuits with far too much icing sugar, or run around doing a treasure hunt, or play a game involving lobbing socks across a hall… or spend an evening learning relaxation methods during times of exam and other stress. Because it’s a regular commitment I don’t let other things get in the way. This doesn’t look like ‘me time’, but it really is
Live life to the full – it’s a cliché, but I have gained far more from volunteering than I have put in. Through my GB experience I know that God loves to see us succeed. He answers prayer. He provides my strong foundation. Whatever happens, I know that He is with me.
“Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” Joshua 1:9 (The Message)
People do many of these things every day, but for me this is part of my faith, my service and worship to God, it connects through to a deeper, more spiritual, purpose. I do these things intentionally, with love, and they have become a joyful part of who I am.
Claire Boxal is a leader in 1st Larkfield GB group in Kent and works in communications.
Girls Brigade England & Wales (www.girlsb.org.uk) provides sustainable local groups for 4-8s, 7-11s, 10-14s, 13-18s, 18-30s primarily, but not exclusively, for girls. GB provides local consultations for churches, adult leader equipping and ongoing support, fun programme materials and achievement awards that enable a Christian community to engage with young people in a wide variety of settings and in a fun, action-packed way.