How do we help others whilst mindfully taking care of ourselves?
Quite simply, nobody can make it through life alone. We all require support at times, sometimes on an ongoing basis, or during particular events. Think about your academic, professional and personal lives. Ups and downs are inevitable and reaching out for help can be challenging. There can even be barriers at times. It can be hard enough to help yourself at times, let alone help others.
So how do we help others whilst mindfully taking care of ourselves? We don't need to be an expert to have a mental health conversation. A key element of supporting somebody is simply listening to what's on their mind. I'll regularly relay to those contemplating talking therapies that therapeutic process is a rare opportunity to have somebody listen to your entire agenda, without shifting the conversation towards themselves.
Taking the time to listen to somebody can go a long way. You may know what to do with the information, with regards to where to signpost a friend, so they can receive specialist support. You also may not. Just letting your friend, family member, or colleague know that you care and that you'll listen to can help significantly.
Boundaries - what are they and how do we use them to keep ourselves safe?
We may or may not be aware of our personal boundaries, whether that's in the workplace, friendship circles, or our family members. You may have somewhat open boundaries, where those closest offload to you. This can become a bit too much for you. That person may feel close to you, that you listen and care, and that you are a foundation of their wellbeing support. Although that’s complimentary, enhancing your relationship, it can also become a detriment, affecting your mental health negatively.
How do we enforce good, healthy boundaries?
- Practise self-awareness – asking yourself - "what situations are making me stressed?" or "what do I have control over?".
- Seek support - self-help books, online resources, counselling, good friends.
- Make your self-care routine a priority - give yourself the permission to put yourself first, indulge in something you enjoy and that makes you feel great.
- Start small - initially small boundaries and build on that to improve your boundaries over time.
Along with supporting others, you too are trying to navigate your way through life, and thus, through your own challenges. The difficulties that others encounter may come at a time in which you are also experiencing hardship. It can be good to confide in each other, depending on your boundaries and the type of relationship you have, e.g. friendship, relationship, or managerial relationship. Being aware of when things become overwhelming for you can be key in this instance though. At this time, it's healthy to take a step back.
Key thoughts to take away
- I don't have to be an expert in order to support a friend - I can empathise and listen, to begin with
- If I'm unsure what boundaries are, or what my own are, it may be worth me exploring these to help myself feel safer and to avoid being overwhelmed by others
- Self-awareness is always good. You can explore your feelings and thoughts at any time you wish, through a number of resources