This blog is here to bring attention and encouragement to those that are the supporters of loved ones or close ones with mental health concerns. If this is you, you are likely well aware that being in this role is surely tough at times. I also imagine at the same time, that it is something that you value. Perhaps you provide mental health support to a loved one such as a child (whether still a minor or an adult), a parent, a spouse or significant other, a close friend, a coworker, or another individual you find yourself closely connected to. If this is you, the following tips and areas of reflection may assist you as you navigate some of the common challenges that can present themselves within this dynamic.
Identify your role(s) and know your limits.
In and throughout life, we all adopt various roles and responsibilities personally and interpersonally. For those of you that are supporters of others’ mental health, a good first step to managing this position can be to identify what your roles are and what they are not. Similarly, recognizing and acknowledging where your limits lie and potentially setting healthy boundaries, are just as imperative. One example is knowing that as a friend, you can support someone you care about and be there for them in their ups and downs, or challenges related to their mental health, while also remembering you are their friend and not their doctor, therapist, parent, or otherwise. This is definitely not easy at times, but quite important. When we really love and care about someone, telling them no, explaining we cannot provide for them, or stepping down from our responsibilities sometimes can be really difficult. Recognizing limits and setting boundaries for some can feel mean, selfish, or uncaring, and although I know that to be a true feeling, I think it is vital to point out that it is not actually a fact. If we learn ways to increase our ability to recognize when we need to say no, when we are reaching our capacity, or when we need to ask for more help, we likely can help others and ourselves much better and more healthily. This skill requires a certain level of self-awareness and insight, as it is a tool that can be effective to ward off burnout or even possible resentment toward your loved one that can be unwanted and unintentionally placed upon them.
Know when to seek help beyond yourself.
As mentioned just before, it can be extremely helpful to know when to seek further help for your loved ones or for yourself. The lines between your various roles can become blurred at times, and it is difficult to know what is and is not your responsibility or within your personal limits when this happens. It is okay to have limits as mentioned, after all, you are a human being and human beings have limitations. It is absolutely okay to not know or have all the answers, solutions, or know exactly how to act or what to say at all times. There is a chance you will be faced with a situation where you need to assist your loved one with getting a higher level of care beyond yourself and this is nothing to be ashamed of. There is also a chance, and it can even be a very beneficial tool, for you to seek support of your own, whether that is from a support or process group, individual therapy, a solid self-care routine, or simply breaks from your roles from time to time.
Tending to your own needs and self-care.
Regardless of how much you are there for others, you are also an individual soul that has needs. You will be much better equipped to assist others if you yourself have a solid self-care plan to tend to these needs. Self-care can act as a proactive method for managing life’s inevitable difficulties. When used reactively in order to ward off burnout, self-care can often be less effective. To better understand some of the different types of self-care and create a personalized self-care plan, feel free to check out our Healing Your Holistic Self blog series from last fall.
Separating problems from people.
Lastly, a very important tip for coping with this supportive role is to practice separating problems from people. We all have flaws, difficulties, and areas we can grow in. Teaming up against a problem with your loved one, rather than teaming up against your loved one because of their problems can assist in progress being made. This practice can alleviate the tension and even resentment that can arise between two people, and instead allow more energy, strength, and change to gain momentum against the struggles and not get in the way of each person or the relationship.
To close, I want to personally say thank you for caring about the mental health and well being of those around you. It does make a difference in this world and can without a doubt add to the life of another. Remembering that you have worth and value in and outside of this role is crucial to hold onto as well. I hope that after reading this, you are aware of these truths for yourself, and that you can continue to move well onto your way of a more balanced and thriving lifestyle.
Featured image from Canva