Be there for yourself & others
So, you have a loved one who is struggling with mental health, always has or is going through a tough time and you want to be there for them as much as you can. You care about them and want to be that person they can trust and be their shoulder.
But you’re not sure the best way to be there for them without burning yourself out or brandishing your relationship with them if you realise you’re being deeply affected by it. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by helping someone. It doesn’t mean they are a burden to you either but there are ways to make sure you're looking after yourself too. It’s really important. It will help you to feel happier, healthier and be able to cope better and be fully present with your friend.
So here are a few tips to make sure you’re looking after yourself as well as the person you’re helping:
Being there for your friend:
Just be there
Sometimes your very presence is enough to comfort someone. They might not be ready to talk about their situation so do your best to be present with them. For example, suggest doing something that will make them feel comfortable like watching a movie, playing games, or going out.
When your friend is ready to talk, be ready to listen. You may not understand what they’re going through and maybe you don’t know what to say or how to help just yet, but this will help them know that you acknowledge what they’re feeling and that they’re being heard.
Maybe you don’t understand what your friend is going through but being empathetic is a helpful quality. Use phrases like, “I’m sorry that you are going through this right now,” or “it sounds like you are caught between a rock and a hard place.” If there’s a situation where you believe they are right, tell them that. Validate their feelings. This shows them that you acknowledge them and understand what’s happening and are ready to talk about it more if they need.
- Use tentativeness
Being tentative means being uncertain or fixed but it also means “to try”. When your friend is ready to talk out their situation, try offering observations instead of assuming things. Start by saying phrases like, “I’m unsure but it seems to me…”, “maybe you are feeling like this because…”, “it sounds like…”, or even, “If you feel comfortable, would you consider trying…” This is helpful empathy and shows your friend that they don’t have to have the solution to their situation right away. This is kind of like a workshop. This is also a way to expand your friend's perspective on the situation.
- Ask how you can help
It’s okay to ask how you can help however, be prepared for them to not be quite sure what they want, and in this case, all you can really do is be there for them. If you feel you need to give direct advice, do it. Some people want or need to hear what you have to say. Even though it may be hard to hear sometimes, honest feedback may be just the tonic they need. Make sure to emphasize with your friend and understand that they can take your advice or leave it. Also, be prepared to set boundaries if you need them.
- Let them know you care
Lastly, tell your friend that you love and care for them. If you believe in them, tell them you do and that you are there for them. Life’s too short to not say what you feel.
Looking after yourself:
- Mindfulness techniques
Unplug from socials and take the time to learn mindfulness, meditation and breathing techniques, which can all be found on YouTube along with music or ambiance to set the mood. There are also some great videos on the Find Meaning section of the Wellbeing Hub. You can do lots of them while on a walk or lying in your bed. This can clear your mind and distract you for a bit and can also help you stay patient and understanding towards your friend in need.
- Take time for yourself
Take a break to unwind and de-stress. Watch a movie, TV show, start reading a book or even catch up with friends! This can help you refresh and stay positive.
- Talk to someone
Talk to other people about your own worries or experiences. This can help you release the weight off your shoulders and be open about how you are feeling.
- Look after yourself physically
Looking after your body is so important! It may be hard to fit it into a busy schedule but if you take just a bit of time to make sure you have a balanced diet and do some exercise, it will really make a difference to your health and energy. Make sure you do something that suits you whether it’s yoga, pilates, the gym, homework outs or even dancing! You want to be able to enjoy exercise. As students, it’s hard to keep track of sleep but if you can, make sure you’re getting those eight hours at night, or take naps during the day if you need.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. This can be about your own problems or if you need advice on how to help your friend in need, don’t be afraid to ask others what you can do.
As long as you can create a healthy balance, it's easy to look after yourself while being there for someone else.
Don't sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there's nothing else you can give, and nobody will care for you.Karl Lagerfeld