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You Can’t Save Everyone: Supporting Loved Ones With Mental Health Issues Without Losing Yourself.

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You’re a good friend.

We’ll let you sit on those words of affirmation for a moment.

You’re always there for a sister in need, offering an open ear, heart, and shoulder to lean on.

Compassion is crucial in sustaining lasting and fulfilling relationships. Moreover, it’s a two-way street. By showing empathy and kindness to your sisters, they’ll reciprocate when you need emotional support.

In fact, research suggests these close friendships–which often involve being there for one another during a crisis–are more important for women than men. When spending time with your fellow sisters, you experience a serotonin and oxytocin release. It’s good to know that #squadgoals is science-backed.

There is a delicate balance, though. It’s possible to become too immersed in the struggles of a friend dealing with personal or mental health-related issues. The results could have adverse impacts on other aspects of your life.

You Can’t Be Everything To Everyone!

You want to do everything you can to help your sister. Still, failing to set boundaries can lead you toward the following pitfalls if you aren’t careful: 

  • Being accessible or available 24/7.
  • Feeling guilty because you’re doing well.
  • Staying in friendships (or relationships) that make you unhappy.
  • Putting yourself in danger to watch/protect your friend (in extenuating circumstances).

For one, unless you’re a professional therapist being paid to provide care, you can’t be made responsible for someone’s mental health. Yes–you don’t want to make things worse, but showing any support at all is actively making things better.

Feelings of guilt are natural when someone you care about is going through strife. Nonetheless, constantly remind yourself you’re a good friend doing what you can to help.

How Can You Help A Sister In Need?

Here’s a list of strategies that can help you help your struggling sister/friend without sacrificing your well-being:

Set Boundaries To Foster Healthy Relationships:

One example of setting boundaries with a sister in need is letting them know you can only talk after work.

Of course, moments of despair don’t choose convenient times to arise. So, offer your friend a backup plan if you’re unavailable during a crisis. Find hotlines they can call or provide a code word they can text you in case of an emergency. You can even stop by their place every few days with a hot meal in hand. The key is to not try to play the role of Super Woman.

Also, consider involving other sisters to help so there’s a more robust support network.

Open A Dialogue Using Effective Communication Techniques;

Let your struggling friend know that you see them and hear them. Start a conversation by saying you notice things aren’t quite right with their mood. Be direct without being judgmental.

While your sister-friend may want to open up and talk about what’s wrong, they may not want advice (or be ready for it). So, use active listening techniques and only provide advice when asked.

Avoiding Caregiver Burnout By Taking Care Of Yourself:

You can’t call mental health struggles contagious, but watching a loved one or friend suffer can take an emotional toll. Avoiding caregiver burnout means setting times when you’re unavailable and practicing awareness of your psychological limitations.

Encourage Therapy:

Your friend might not be in therapy–in which case, encourage it. Talking to a professional can help people through any number of struggles. If our sister-friend is in treatment but wants to cancel their appointment, do everything possible to get them there. Depression and other mental health issues should be treated by professionals. Therapy sessions also make it easier for you to help as a friend. Being the best friend you can be can often mean putting yourself first.

Sign up for this year’s Selfish Retreat Event to finally fully embrace the power of truly loving yourself. Bring your friend along and have the best time of your life!

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Rachel Moore
Rachel Moore
As a passionate word wrangler, Rachel finds too much joy when writing about food, wine, health and wellness, dating, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content. If you’ve got a story to tell, she can help you find the words. When she’s not working, Rachel can be found hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, or getting too emotionally invested in a dessert from Whole Foods. She is a born and raised Vancouverite, which means she loves the mountains and wears a lot of lululemon.
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