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7/28/2008

Endo Blog: What Is "Self-Help"?? What Are The Health Benefits Of Volunteering? Why Join/Start A Support Group??

I joined my first endometriosis support group in 1992 at the age of 23. I have been involved with endo support groups ever since.

When I formed a local endometriosis support group in 2001 (in another city from where I was first a group member), I took a class that another support group leader had highly recommended. It was excellent!

The class was on the topic: "facilitating self-help groups" and was taught by a trainer at my local branch of the Mental Health Association (see the National Mental Health Association website below):

http://www.nmha.org/

I found the class VERY helpful and it enabled me to learn some basic principles that I could apply when facilitating an endometriosis support group. About 20 people took this class alongside me; their reasons for taking the class were many and varied. Some people were taking the class as a requirement for their jobs. Others, like me, took the class because they wanted to become better informed before volunteering their time as a support group leader or meeting facilitator.

Today I did some searching on the Internet on the topic of "self-help" and I came across an interesting site:

http://www.selfhelpweb.org/

I did not have time to review the website in its entirety but the sections I skimmed through were thought-provoking and interesting to me.

What do you think...?

+ What is the value of self-help?
+ What is the difference between a self-help group and a support group, if any?
+ What is the significance of "giving back"?
+ How can it HELP your health to volunteer??

DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE HEALTH BENEFITS TO YOU FROM VOLUNTEERING???


That's right! Volunteering your time can give YOU health benefits!!

There is research to support this...

See the following website:

http://www.getinvolved.gov/newsroom/press/factsheet_health.asp

Perhaps you don't have a local endometriosis support group. Maybe you'd like to start one to help others in your area AND to help yourself? Networking with fellow patients is VERY HELPFUL! I have learned this from personal experience.

Here is an interesting quote I found at the "Get Involved!" link above:

“People who do volunteer work are much less likely to suffer illness. The close interpersonal relationships and community involvement that occur with volunteer service are tailor-made to enhance the healing process.”

—The Healing Power of Service by Edward V. Brown


I am not familiar with Edward V. Brown but I think his quote above is very true... based on my own personal experience. Support groups are certainly no cure for endometriosis and other chronic illnesses. However the power & value of networking with fellow patients cannot be emphasized enough!

What do you think? How do you benefit from the support of fellow endometriosis patients?

Have you ever stopped to think that "giving back" or volunteering could possibly give YOU health benefits?????

Please check out the sites above and see what you think!

Who knows? Maybe someone reading this will get inspired to volunteer time to a local endometriosis support group OR maybe even start an endometriosis support group if there isn't one available locally?

Let me know what you think about the idea that volunteering can enhance you immune system and lower your blood pressure, as was mentioned on the "Get Involved!" site above. It's amazing, isn't it??

The above site also says, "Volunteering helps to rebuild communities and solve serious social problems. And, according to research, it can also improve your physical and mental health!"

By helping each other, we can truly help ourselves and facilitate healing. It's a win-win for all involved.


I'd love to hear everyone's feedback on this one... :)

This article was posted by Jeanne via "Jeanne's Endo Blog" at www.endendoat.blogspot.com.

4 comments:

Yaya said...

Oh my gosh, Jeanne, we are too much alike. Read my post from today!
I do agree, volunteering has so many beneficial side effects. I had volunteered for years and years so much of my life as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters, but I finally had to make the choice to focus on my infertility and spend the money I was using volunteering toward it. I still want to get back into volunteering, I was thinking maybe of walking dogs at the local animal shelter.
And I love your support group! Thank you for giving so much of yourself to it!!!!!!

Jeanne said...

Alicia,

Great minds think alike! Ha ha.

Seriously… “oh my gosh” is right… We do seem to be on the same wavelength! :) I just took a quick peek at your blog this morning before heading out the door for (don't pass out from surprise here!), a doctor's appointment. Shocking I know!

Anyway, I think living life with a purpose is so important. Sometimes we just get into "autopilot" mode to "survive" the day and we forget to enjoy the present moment and just take everything in.

I know what you mean about volunteering. Years ago, I volunteered at a Children's Hospital in another city. I eventually had to stop because I had college classes full time plus a fair amount of work hours too… and I was just having trouble keeping all of the balls juggled in the air at once. Something had to give and, unfortunately, the volunteer work I was doing at the time had to be it --- because my college classes weren't going away and I certainly couldn’t cut back on my hours at work because I needed every penny I was making to pay my bills. I felt badly having to stop, though. It honestly was so rewarding.

You would love working for an animal shelter. You are so good with animals. I just read somewhere (possibly on Konstanin's relaxation site??) that walking dogs is supposed to be very relaxing.

I'm glad you like the support group. There is no need to thank me. I honestly get more back from volunteering as a support group leader than I could ever give it. Seriously. That was kind of the point I was trying to make with my post. People often look at volunteering as something that takes energy away from them. I'm not denying that the support group does take time and energy. The thing is that I can control how much time I spend on support group activities. So if I'm feeling really sick, I can just back off on some of the between-meeting stuff and focus on simply getting myself to those monthly meetings.

I never dreamed I'd get so much out of facilitating the group as I do. For anyone who does not have a local endo support group, I highly recommend starting one up! I have learned SO MUCH from fellow group members that I probably wouldn't have learned any other way. The creativity and persistence that group members possess and the determination they have to seek out the medical care they need (no matter how long it takes to find the right healthcare practitioners for them) is admirable.

Our support group members make strong connections with each other, validate each others' experiences and feelings, and make each other feel less alone in managing this difficult illness. I honestly never knew I could get so much back from giving of my time with the endo support group but it's really true.

All of that research supporting the value of volunteering really resonates with me because I have experienced the benefits firsthand. I wish there were more endometriosis support groups out there and that more people participated in them. I have seen the power of patients connecting with other patients who have similar symptoms and/or life experiences. It is amazing to watch people when this happens. You can almost see the "light bulb moment", as Oprah would put it, when one person realizes the connection being made with the other person.

Simply meeting just one other person with endo can change the life of an endo patient! Each patient can learn SO much from other endo patients!! I've seen it again and again. The sheer amount of info that even 2 endo patients can share with each other is amazing.

To have a group of women in one room who all have endo is such an energy boost because every woman in the room has something in common and the information-sharing in incredible. This seems to facilitate a very quick connection between people...

Even if women walked into the room as strangers to each other, they nearly always walk out feeling a kind of sisterhood and bond. Just sitting and talking with other endo patients is so very powerful! There really is no way to properly explain it in words. You have to feel the connection to really "get it". All I know is that no matter how sick or tired I am on meeting night or how concerned I am that I may not be able to make a meeting, once I get to a meeting I feel the energy in the room and wonder what I was thinking when the thought crossed my mind that I might not be able to make it. I’d have to be pretty sick to miss a meeting. The connections made there are invaluable.

I cannot recommend highly enough that women who are lacking an endo support group where they live should seriously consider starting a group. I know I’m glad I did. (Otherwise I never would have met you)!!! :)

Anonymous said...

"My years as a medical practitioner, as well as my own first-hand experience, have taught me how important self-help groups are in assisting their members in dealing with problems, stress, hardship and pain... the benefits of mutual aid are experienced by millions of people who turn to others with a similar problem to attempt to deal with their isolation, powerlessness, alienation, and the awful feeling that nobody understands... Health and human service providers are learning that they can indeed provide a superior service when they help their patients and clients find appropriate peer support."
- former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD


American Self-Help Group Clearinghouse
http://mentalhelp.net/selfhelp/ or www.selfhelpgroups.org

our American website provides:
- a keyword-searchable database of over 1,200 national, international, and model self-help support groups for most any specific illness, disability, addiction, bereavement situation, parenting, caregiver concern, abuse, or other stressful life situation;
- listing of local non-profit self-help group clearinghouses worldwide
http://www.mentalhelp.net/selfhelp/selfhelp.php?id=859
- suggestions on how to start either a community or online hroup;
- a review of the more rigorous outcome research studies done of self-help groups, you can see a copy of this chapter at:
http://www.chce.research.va.gov/docs/pdfs/KyrouzHumphreysLoomis2002.pdf
- and a registry for those trying to start new national or international support networks that don't yet exist in the world.
For information on national, online, or model groups, those outside New Jersey can also phone our national helpline at 973-989-1122 (8:30am - 5pm Eastern, weekdays).

Jeanne said...

Dear anonymous (whomever you may be),

THANK YOU for the great quote from Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD.

Also, THANK YOU for the fantastic link and the other information you provided.

I really appreciate you taking the time to visit my blog and post this comment!

:)

Jeanne

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