Peter Boyd’s (Arthritis Ireland Volunteer) account of our 2016 National Volunteer Conference

‘Thanks for coming’, ‘take care now’, ‘mind yourself’, ‘good luck’, ‘mind yourself’, ‘safe home’,

‘Mind Your Self’

I said this to a lot of people at the weekend, and while I’ve always wanted the person hearing it to arrive home safely or watch out for any lurking dangers when I’ve said it before, this time it carried some extra resonance and a deeper meaning.

Like that best friend, partner or mammy who doesn’t say ‘Howya’ when they see you, but asks with genuine interest; ‘How are you?’ They want to know what’s going on in your life, and they want to help. It’s a subtle difference in tone and emphasis but to someone in pain or who needs a listening ear they will recognise that vital difference.

I spent Friday evening and Saturday at the Arthritis Ireland National Volunteer Conference in Athlone. I made sure I got down nice and early to take advantage of the pool. It turns out my shoulders didn’t get the memo though because after doing my warm-up I tried to swim. More crunching went on in my shoulders than at a Crunchie eating party on a Friday in the Cadbury factory!

I was forced into a quick rethink and change of plan if I wanted the relaxation and calm I was searching for. I sat in the garden room of the hotel and read my book for an hour and a half while sipping coffee, a more than adequate substitute!

As a result of this, I would have said I’m pretty good at minding and looking after myself. Saturday changed my mind on this in a very positive way. We did a workshop on “Minding yourself“, and it threw up some brilliant questions for us all.

For example, we were asked about all the different roles we perform in our day-to-day. These included things as diverse as a patient, a parent, a carer, a chauffeur, a cook and a peacekeeper. We were then asked to explain why we choose to add volunteering into our busy lives.

All of us gave reasons that had to do with helping others and that we got our satisfaction from having helped others and giving of ourselves. The problems and challenges we encountered were mainly caused by the days we are affected by our disease and can’t give our best to other people.

But how do you get to the point of being able to volunteer and provide that help and support to people living with arthritis? It turns out; everything truly begins at home, and we must Mind Ourselves first and then look after those we care about. There is a reason we are told to put on our own oxygen masks first before looking after children and others.

So while on Friday I did try to put myself first by settling in for a read and a coffee, it turns out its ok to spoil myself from time to time. We may want to be all things to all people, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are enablers and not magicians.

That is one quote I’ve robbed from a list put together by Mary for us all to bring home and another from Fiona during the workshop was to know the difference between important and urgent. It might be important to answer an email by Friday, but that isn’t urgent on Monday morning.

It is terrible to have to break it to people delivering these workshops that sometimes they are not teaching us anything new. HOWEVER, they are reminding us of buried and forgotten information that we should pay attention to and benefit from. A bit like giving up trans fat and added sugar, it’s something we all know we should do but don’t.

I’ll tell you something for nothing, and I hope it sinks in. This is much easier to do than putting down the pastries and leaving the biscuits untouched with your tea.

So to all the staff in Arthritis Ireland who organised a great event, I say thank you.

To all my fellow volunteers I hope you had as good a time as I did and you did indeed mind yourself getting home. You guys reminded me, as you always do that we don’t have to be at our best to volunteer and help out, but when we give ourselves the best chance and spoil ourselves from time to time too, we can achieve wonderful things.

Mind Yourselves, PB

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