Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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Working in the voluntary sector

1.1 Causes of stress

The exact causes of stress are often difficult to pin down. Someone might think that work is the root of their stress because it manifests as a work issue, but the source might actually be a problem at home, or an event or experience from the past resurfacing. The opposite is a possibility too – stress at home with children, ill parents, buying a house or other life event affects how some people cope at work. For some, it becomes a cycle of stress, affecting all aspects of a person’s life.

Furthermore, everyone is different: what causes stress in one person might actually be a source of motivation for another. Some people seem more susceptible to stress for whatever reason. These are all issues to bear in mind when working or volunteering with others: empathy with colleagues when they are going through difficult times, and understanding how people experience and deal differently with stress are essential work skills.

Understanding your own reaction to stressful situations is equally important. You will now do a short quiz to assess the level of stress currently in your life.

Activity 1 How stressed are you?

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Rate yourself on each of the questions below, according to how you normally behave. There are no right or wrong answers. Make a note of your points for each question. When you’ve completed the questionnaire, add up your total number of points. To find out ‘how stressed you are’, look at the score key in the comment that follows.

1 = Strongly disagree

2 = Generally disagree

3 = Neither agree nor disagree

4 = Generally agree

5 = Strongly agree

Reaction to stressPoints
1. I get impatient with delays or interruptions
2. I find it difficult to ‘switch off’ after work
3. I don’t sleep well
4. I take on too many responsibilities
5. I lack confidence in myself
6. I find it difficult to trust other people
7. I feel guilty if I’m not doing something
8. I get aches and pains in my back, neck and shoulders
9. I go over and over issues and problems in my head
10. I get very frustrated when I have to wait in a queue
11. I can’t relax
12. I don’t have enough time to finish all the things I have to do
Total points


12–26: You are unlikely to suffer from stress. However, your life may lack stimulation.

27–45: Although you may feel stress from time to time, in general you are likely to handle this well.

46–60: You may be suffering from excessive stress.

This is just a quick quiz to give you a sense of some of the things that people find stressful. If you are worried that you are suffering from excessive stress, then the section on working with stress could help you. The Further reading section also has links to help you seek further help and support.

Some of the issues you might have started to think about in terms of stress and work might include:

  • Your feelings about your job – are you a perfectionist, for example? If so, you may need to learn to accept that some issues just cannot be resolved, and that your work only needs to be good enough rather than perfect, or that some tasks need more resources than your organisation has.
  • Other people in your organisation and how you work with them. Being clear about the limits of your own and other people’s remits can help to resolve stresses about what it is you are expected to do and what you can expect from others.
  • Resourcing issues, such as the amount of funding available to undertake a task that really requires more than is available.
  • The availability of support for you and your work – often there is not enough or the person who is supposed to support you does not have enough time to meet your needs.

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