Being There for Yourself and Setting Boundaries
Being there for the ones around you has its perks. You become someone they can trust and rely on for their times of need. Although, it is easy to get wrapped up in other people’s problems while putting yours aside. This is not uncommon – a lot of people struggle to realize when they are spreading themselves too thin to help others. While it is a great thing to be an empathetic person, it is important to remember to focus on your own well-being. Ignoring your own problems in order to help other people results in a buildup of issues that are dug deep and hard to solve on your own. It can cause stress, irritability, exhaustion – the list goes on.
An article on cogneurosociety.org proves how this can be harmful, “The researchers used fMRI to measure the neural responses of participants both when they experienced pain and when their loved one, present in the same room, experienced pain. They found that empathy activates the pain-related parts of the neural network associated with emotions but not sensorial experiences.” Although you may feel that it is harmless to help a friend out when you are struggling with your own problems, it can do a lot of damage to your own mental health. You begin to take on the feelings associated with other’s problems without even realizing it, hence why you can start to be impacted as if it is your own issue.
With that being said, it is not wrong to decline the chance to help someone out. It does not make you a bad person for putting yourself first if you are struggling. If someone is your true friend, they will understand that you need to take care of yourself, too. You must set boundaries for yourself and know when you are putting too much of your energy into others. Letting people know that you are taking time to focus on your own issues is not selfish, as long as you put it nicely. Setting boundaries can be temporarily making yourself completely unavailable to those people that are constantly needing and wanting your help. The best way to do this is to unplug from the world of texting and social media. Being on your phone can become draining – it is hard when you are having a bad day and are bombarded with texts from other people needing your assistance. Try to take the time to do what makes you happy and what calms you down. It is not selfish to make yourself unavailable when you need time to unwind. In order for people to respect this, you must be strict with setting your boundaries while always keeping in mind that it is for you and no one else. It is imperative to be stern with this, otherwise people start to take advantage of your kindness, which leads to the built up stress.
Realize that you are worth it – you also deserve to be cared for just as you care for the people around you. Treat yourself with love and kindness, at the end of the day you have only yourself to rely on. You should be your main priority.