Looking after someone you know and have a good relationship with can be hard. Where do you draw the line? How often do you keep in touch? Should you tell someone else? And sometimes lastly we ask, what about me and my needs? It can be easy to get so focused and drawn into helping someone that we forget who we are, our needs and to take time for ourselves. I firmly believe that in order to look after someone, you have to feel supported yourself….you can’t pour from an empty cup right?
Having experienced this myself, I wanted to share somethings that have helped me that I hope help you if you’re in this situation, or you may know someone who is and want to share with them. So let’s start at the top. When we are in this situation we may focus, at first, on that person, so we may be thinking what should I say, and also what should I not say. We might be thinking how often should I check in, and can I share with another person? The answer to all of these questions depend on that person, and I encourage you to ask them what they need. There is no manual to tell you what to do in this situation, and many of us may feel that we might not know where to start. There are, however, some important steps that can help someone feel they can talk to you, and I share them below:
Taking notice of them and letting them know you see them. Sometimes people can feel they are invisible or that people don’t really see them. You can show them that you are there by sending them a text to let them know that you care and are there for them, or just checking in and asking how they are doing? This leads me on to my next point…
Ask them how they are feeling, how their day has been, or you might need to ask them if they are okay if you have seen that they look a little sad or down. Asking someone directly tells them I have seen you, and I care.
Once you have asked them, try and give them the space to talk. It can be hard to remember this, as their friend we might want to reassure them or share our experience. However, focussing on their feelings and voice is important. Try not to interrupt with your thoughts or by sharing your own experiences, remember this is about them, and them sharing.
Remember its okay if you do not know how to help the person, be honest, be clear and reach out to the services together that may be able to help. Sometimes even saying….’I don’t even know what to say but I am glad you told me, shall we look at what we can do to get help together,’ is all someone needs to help them feel they are not alone. It’s absolutely okay to not have all the answers, your friend will not expect you to. It’s just nice for them to feel they are not alone, and the same for you!
Okay, I think I got that, but what about me?
Right! I said this at the start, but it is important to say it again. Looking after someone is hard. It is important to start with you, and ask yourself, am I okay to do this? Go on, ask yourself. If this answer to this is no then you need to be honest with your friend, no matter how bad you feel about it. It is better to help them find someone else who is okay to support them. Sometimes we find it hard to say no and tell people how we feel, but that is the most important part of self-care. Looking after you!
Looking after you
This is something that is different for everyone, what works for you, might not for me or for the next person but that does not make it wrong. In order to get you thinking, I am going to ask you to write down the thing you enjoy the most. This isn’t something you have to share with anyone, it’s for you. In fact, write a list if you can. On my list I have things such as reading, running, eating cake, watching Coronation Street and spending time with friends and family. But what’s on my list, does not need to look like yours. Self-care are things you enjoy doing, so whatever is on your list should just be that! Time for you, whether that is with people or on your own. It’s important to remember this for when you are supporting someone, you might want to lay some boundaries. We may not always feel great ourselves, and sharing this with someone can help us as much as it can help them.
Doing all of this, does not make you a bad person, in fact, it makes you a better friend. It sets a brilliant example of what a good friend should be like, and ultimately will fill up your cup so you can help others. A nice reference to the cup analogy I like to use!
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It’s nice to know there is a community out there that struggle, like me, sometimes in helping others, but it’s also nice to know there is a space for us to talk openly and feel less alone xx