It’s a beautiful summer day; one of those days that you like to share with others sipping wine, sharing good food and plenty of laughter. Feeling connected to others is a basic human need we all share. The fun and caring times we spend with friends and family add to our ‘wellness savings bank’. These times make us feel happy, refreshed, and cared about. Unquestionably, though, there are days when a withdrawal from the wellness savings account is needed. Friends or family going through tough times may demand more than usual on some days! Helping others can make you feel good; however, it can also be emotionally draining and stressful. Remember that you cannot take on their problems. How can you help without getting too deeply involved? How can you maintain your own personal wellness?
Know your boundaries
Understand your limits and what you personally need to stay healthy and stress free. When you know these boundaries, you are more likely to live within them. For example, if a friend asks you if she can stay with you while she finds a new apartment, what limits will you place on your hospitality to help maintain your wellness and a continued positive relationship with your friend?
Once you understand your boundaries, learn to communicate them to others. In the above example, before she moves in, tell your friend what you need from her to respect your needs and discuss how you will address differences to support mutual respect. There may also be more specific issues to discuss such as house rules you would appreciate she followed while living with you.
Listen, listen, listen
Ladies, practice what we want your men to do! Listen, listen, listen! Before jumping to conclusions or providing advice, listen to what your friend or family member is asking. Sometimes they just want you to hear their concerns or want reassurance that they are being reasonable. Other times they may be asking for more but either don’t know what they want or are reluctant to ask. In this case, clarify what they need from you by asking, “How can I help?” or “What support do you need from me?” If you are not able or willing to help, be honest. Tell them what you are willing to do and what you cannot commit to do.
Help them enable themselves
The solution to your friend’s dilemma may be very obvious to you. It is easy for many of us to see solutions when we are not deeply involved with an issue. However, your solution is not necessarily the correct one for your friend. Help them help themselves by asking open-ended questions that make them think about the issue and come up with their own solution. For example, rather than saying, “You should…,” ask your friend, “What alternatives have you thought of?” “How do you plan to handle XYZ situation?” “What is your back-up plan?” With your questions, help your friend see different perspectives and express their thoughts.
If someone in need of advice asks for your opinion, be constructive with your comments. Tell them how you see the situation from your perspective rather than stating a situation as a truth. For instance, instead of saying, “Your partner is a horrible person”, tell them what us see. For example, “I have seen your partner yell at you and be abusive and it worries me that you seem to just accept it as normal behavior.” State the specific behaviors that you see and the concerns you have about them. Doing so, helps the individual identify what can be changed, i.e. the behavior and not necessarily the person.
Make a deposit into your own wellness account
In helping others, our own positive energy can be drained quickly. Be sure to find time to help yourself re-energize. For some people this might mean meditating or spending quiet time alone, while for others it might mean socializing with others who can help them regenerate. Making regular deposits into your wellness account by doing things that you love will help you address your own life issues and give you energy to help others.