Everyone I know is so stressed! How to support them without losing it?
April 22, 2021 3:37 PM   Subscribe

It seems like everyone I know is dealing with extremely hard and stressful things right now. I am also dealing with some hard and stressful things (like the rest of the planet), but am probably in a better place than they are. However, the stress of my friends and loved ones is stressing me out! How can I be supportive and also somehow get my own oxygen mask on?
posted by ferret branca to Human Relations (8 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
oh my god story of seemingly everyone's life right now!!! Everyone needs support these days and we're all trying to give it to each other. I sympathize, being the recipient of multiple peoples' crises / problems for a prolonged period can be so exhausting.

I will be watching this thread closely. Some minor things that have helped me with this is allowing myself to take breaks from feeling obligated to be everyone else's crises support, and also telling myself that there's only so much I can do to help with my friends' problems.

I tend to instinctively take on the emotions and feelings when my friends share their emotions and feelings with me, which can be unsustainable, so I've been reminding myself that some mental separation is not only necessary, but healthy. I tell myself the biggest part I can do as a friend is to just keep showing up (rather than trying to solve all their problems). Big hugs!
posted by blueberrypuffin at 4:08 PM on April 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

I brought dinner to some friends who were overextended by work, pandemic, and distance learning. It took one thing off their plates and wasn’t that much harder for me to get done
posted by advicepig at 4:09 PM on April 22, 2021

I've been trying to be really conscientious about giving follow-up updates, especially when the news is good, in order to encourage my friends to do the same. I have one who always tells me when the internet is out but never mentions that it came back on. So I'm being proactive about saying that the birthday was nice, the vaccine went fine, the evaluation was fair. It may not change anyone else's behavior but it's been making me feel good to be spreading some positivity myself.
posted by xo at 4:44 PM on April 22, 2021 [13 favorites]

A therapist friend told me that the trick was to be really present with people when they are sharing their problems - listen to them, have empathy, be with them in the moment. But then when you finish the conversation, make sure you don't try to pick up their problems and take them home. In other words, be very clear to yourself that these are not your problems and it does no one (neither you nor friend) to carry them around with you.

My personal version of this is that I kind of have a strict caring budget - whose problems I am willing to carry around and worry about even when I am not with them. Most friends, I care about them, I wish them well, but i just CAN"T get filled with worry about stuff that I can't do anything about. It sounds cold but truth is what helps them is being present with them when we are connected, it doen't help them for me have trouble falling asleep because I'm worried about their problems.
posted by metahawk at 5:02 PM on April 22, 2021 [25 favorites]

I am struggling with this as well. My job involves representing the interests of a group of people who have been particularly hard-hit by a particular type of pandemic fallout, and many of my friends are also part of that group. Sometimes it feels like everyone is screaming for empathy and understanding from everyone around them, but when someone suggests that other people might have the same needs, they freak out. It’s all starting to sound like a never-ending chorus of “but what about MEEEEE!!!!” There have been days when I want to rip someone’s head off, or point out that compassion is not pie, and the fact that someone else gets a little piece shouldn’t mean that there is less for anyone else.

Right now, I figure the best thing I can do for everyone is take care of my own emotions so that I don’t end up losing it and causing more damage. For me, that means defining a limited amount of time when I can be there for people, and then stepping back, turning off devices and disengaging, for the rest of it. A few people are disappointed that they can’t reach me as easily as they could a couple of months ago, but they would be more disappointed if I screamed at them.
posted by rpfields at 5:19 PM on April 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

Same thought recently.

Golden rule, approach them as you'd like to be approached in their situation. Attempt to be extra independent. Absolutely do not report or press concerns that don't need to be reported/needlessly discussed. Let things go without saying a word or raising a glance. Maintain strict personal balance or limitations whenever necessary. Etc.

A favorite perspective is the neutral perspective of a doctor or medical carer, who needs to consider every aspect of a person's health and likely needs to have a deep or unconditional love of others to functionally work. Very primum non nocere.

What do animals or others in stress need? Relief. Joy. Acknowledgement. Rest.
Find pockets of relief to provide and people will probably endlessly appreciate the gesture, even if small.
posted by firstdaffodils at 5:23 PM on April 22, 2021

What are you currently doing for self care? Almost all my free time is for that right now: daily journaling, meditation, yoga, walks, somatic practices to process feelings, silly lighthearted YouTube videos.

How do you shed/process your friends’ felons after you talk or spend time with them? Look up somatic practices to help you do this.

How are your personal and interpersonal boundaries? Are you trying to do work that belongs to others? Check out the book “Set Boundaries, Find Peace” for help on this.
posted by spindrifter at 3:15 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have found it helpful to have a weekly Zoom with a group of friends. It helps to share the emotional labor of being supportive with others. And we all celebrate our wins (no matter how small) of the week. Plus it is something to look forward too.
posted by oceano at 3:24 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

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