We’ve all been there and done that. We’ve all been guilty of encroaching on someone else’s personal mental space without them giving us permission to do so.
We don’t mean to do it but at times, at that moment, we’re in dire need of a listening ear. We need someone who to help guide us through our thought process, pull us off the ledge of emotional suicide, and to just be there to calm the waters, even if just for a little bit.
But it has never dawned on me the emotional turmoil that we may be transferring to others, and in the process, draining them of their sanity after we’ve aimed, shot, and fired off a series of problems.
After our emotional support person has helped to bring us back into the realities of rational thinking, they are often left to deal with internalizing our aftermath.
In an article featured on Instyle, it speaks of seeking ‘consent for emotional labor’ from a friend. The statement was made in reference after justice activist and educator Melissa A. Fabello, Ph.D. tweeted, “Do you have the emotional/mental capacity for me to vent about something medical weight-related for a few minutes?” A tweet that caused a much-needed conversation.
Before we begin to express our crisis to a friend, it’s important to realize that they, too, may be going through one themselves. They may not be equipped to handle an additional stressor at that moment.
We all want to practice great mental self-care, and one way to do that is by setting boundaries in our relationships. This ensures that we are not taking on more than what we can handle, emotionally and physically.
So before becoming someone’s emotional lifeguard only to end up needing support ourselves, we should take some time and ask ourselves some important questions.
According to InStyle, here are a couple of pointers that could be helpful when talking on the role of emotional caregiver in a loving way:
1. Set some time limits.
What you can say: “I am free to talk for a half hour after work, but I have a dinner at 7.”
2. Recommend professional help.
What you can say: “I love you but I feel like I am a little out of my league helping you with this issue. You may want to talk to a therapist."
3. Pace the conversation.
What you can say: “I am swamped today, can we plan to talk tomorrow?”
4. Let them know where you are at emotionally.
What you can say: “I am having a really bad day, too. Can I vent first?”
5. If your friend keeps having the same problem over and over and you are getting burnt out, suggest some introspection.
What you can say: “I have noticed that this keeps coming up for you in different shapes and forms and I feel like my advice is not helping. You may want to spend some time journaling, meditating, or just thinking about why this keeps happening.”
In a time of need, we all want to be that great friend that provides good advice, but when it comes at the expense of our own well-being, setting boundaries is equally important. Someone who is truly in-tune and cares about you as a friend would understand and would want to know if you feel burdened, knowing that even the best of friends can get overwhelmed at times.