How to support your friends without sacrificing your own mental health
It can be really tough striking the balance between putting yourself first and being a supportive friend. We often treat our friends with more kindness than we would show ourselves and that tends to be where the issue lies. Being a supportive friend is great, but when it means sacrificing your own mental health, we should be slightly cautious.
The friends I met in high school remain my best friends and we've all grown up together. We’ve shared similar experiences and in general, are very similar people. In so many ways that is fantastic because we get each other you know? I don’t feel judged and I know that they’ll understand how I’m feeling and how to support me. However, when you’re feeling low yourself and only have a limited amount of energy and positivity to give - is it always wise to give it away?
Here are a few things you can do that protects your own well-being whilst being a good friend…
Don’t be afraid to be honest - if you’re not feeling at your best to be lending support let it be known. Let them know that your energy is limited and that you want to be there for them but you’re not feeling in the best place to give them 100%.
An example of how the conversation could go:
Say, “I’m really sorry you’re not feeling great, I completely understand how you feel and I’m here to support you and love you. I’m feeling low myself and only have a limited amount of energy to give you at the moment. I hope you understand".
Depending on how you’re feeling, allocate some time to listen to their worries and support them or send them love, and ask if it’s ok to get back to them when you’re feeling better. You could pass on a website, article, instagram, idea or even suggest speaking to a family member or another friend to help them feel better
You may feel super guilty for not being able to support them right there and then, but in the long-term if you’re not feeling 100% how can you expect to give them and yourself the best advice and care?
Only last month I had a little breakdown and I text my friend asking for support and she couldn’t be there for me right that moment. She text me back a week or so later apologising but said she felt like she couldn’t give me what I needed in that moment and I totally respected that. I wasn’t angry at her, I appreciated her taking that time for herself.
Set boundaries - if you’re feeling like you’re giving a lot of energy to your friends at the moment then allocate some dedicated time to yourself to recuperate. Spend an evening being a good friend to yourself. Whatever you need to unwind or practice self-care then spend as much time as you need doing that. It is not a crime to put yourself first.
Allocate certain time - you could suggest going for coffee or something similar to talk with your friend and support them in that space. Then leave the situation and put it to bed. It’s not always healthy to invest your all into that person and you can’t always take on their problems so try not to bring it home with you. By having that supportive conversation outside of your phone or your home then you can distance yourself from it. I go for coffee with my friend usually about once a week and we talk about all of our feelings and then I leave and it feels great to have it all out in one space that I can walk away from.
Find additional support - if you’re part of a friendship group call upon one of your other friends to give the support that you can’t right now. Let your friend know that you love and care for them, but that you can’t be the one to support them right now.
Do something that could help you both - go for a walk, do a fun activity, cook together or just be in each other’s company without speaking. Just be there for each other without really having to do anything. Sometimes, we just need to feel loved or a little less lonely in our own heads so being in the presence of someone else can be helpful without having to give your friend an intense pep talk or therapy session.
Obviously each friendship and circumstance is different but these are just a few suggestions to help you create that balance between being a good friend to yourself and others. You have to put your well-being first in order to be a good friend so this is your reminder that it is ok to be selfish with your energy, you’re not a bad person.