How To Balance Helping Others & Still Care For Yourself

Self, Health And Wellness

As a supportive friend, helpful family member, or reliable employee you are the one everyone goes to when in need. The fixer, advice giver, helper. At the same time, you feel exhausted, irritable, anxious, and stressed out. You find yourself run down because your energy is always spent on others. 

What you really crave is a healthy balance between helping others and caring for yourself. You want the freedom to say no instead of feeling obligated and guilty. It is possible to create a sense of balance for yourself.

Here are four steps to help you balance between helping others and caring for yourself. 

First step: Stop “Yes-Vomiting”

You have heard of the phrase word-vomiting, now apply it the word yes. The only way to begin taking care of yourself is to stop over-committing.

Your automatic reaction may be to say yes even if your gut says no. Or, you pick up a phone call or respond to a text message without giving a second thought to the so-called “emergencies.” Give yourself some time before throwing yourself at every opportunity. 

For example: ask for a day or two to consider the request or task before agreeing. Or, wait an hour or the end the day before responding to the “crisis” text message or call.  Many times people will solve their own problems if you just give it time. In addition, you are honoring yourself by giving some thought and time before committing. 

Second step: Evaluate

As Lysa Terkeurst states in her book “The Best Yes” every yes leads to certain expectations. But, you do not know all the expectations when saying yes. Therefore it is important to evaluate your capacity before committing.

After applying step one begin the next process by evaluating your capability in time, spirituality, finances, and emotions to take on the request or task as Lysa Terkeurst suggests.

  • Time: Do you actually have time in your schedule to complete this request or is this infringing or replacing other things like family and self-care time? 
  • Spirituality: Is this going to affect your spiritual life by taking away from or hurting it? Will it replace your ability to connect with your spiritual practices or figure?
  • Finances: Is the request going to cause you a financial burden or responsibility? Do you have to invest with no return or prolonged return?
  • Emotions: Is this commitment going to overwhelm you emotionally? Will you feel exhausted by it or present yourself or the other person for promising to help?

It is important to truly look at each of these areas and analyze whether you have the ability to fulfill the task/request without damaging yourself. 

Third Step: Do not avoid 

“Delay, unlike sugar, will not always help things go down better.”- Lysa Terkeurst  

When you figured out your answer is a no, as a giver, you will probably avoid telling your actual answer. You feel anxious or fearful of turning others away. However, avoidance will only cause more problems. One way to encourage you to move forward instead of avoiding is to remind yourself of the positives of saying the small nos.

  • You are allowing the asker the opportunity to solve their own issue and grow from it. 
  • You are giving other people the chance to serve and help instead of always being you.
  • You are preventing a big disappointment from a delayed no.
  • You feel less stress and resentment for taking on a task you are not suited to complete. 
  • You are more enjoyable to be around and have more energy to help others after caring for your needs.

Final Step: Implementing the small nos

Many people freeze at this point. It feels awkward and uncomfortable to decline especially when you are so used to saying yes. But, you made a decision and if no is the best decision then you must do it. The more you practice saying the small nos the easier it will become.

Here are some factors to include when implementing your small nos:

  • Honesty: Be honest in why you cannot help. People can be surprisingly understanding when you explain to them your reasoning to decline.
    • For example, “I really would like to help but I can’t today because I have a large to do list I have to complete before the end of the day.”
  • Appreciation: You do not have to be heartless or cold in your nos either. You can thank or note your appreciation for them seeking you out.
    • “ Thanks for asking, I really appreciate you thinking of me as your resource to help.”
  • Stand your ground: You will be tempted to budge and say maybe especially when your asker is insisting. Do not forget the reasons you made your original decision. Reiterate your stance and do not budge.

Slowing down your yeses and starting your small nos can be a tough transition. But the more you put into practice the steps above, the more balanced you will feel. Not only will you benefit but others will too. You will be giving them your rejuvenated self rather than your obligated and run-down version. 

It's much easier to say and plan to change your self-sacrificing behaviors but actually attempting and changing it yourself is a different story. After years and even decades of caring for others it may feel impossible to balance your wants with other people's wants. Having outside help may be necessary so don't be afraid to seek professional assistance in order to experience balance and feel refreshed. 

The article was written by Colleen Andre for Life Counseling Solutions. Colleen is a therapist at Life Counseling Solutions specializing in working with women struggling with past pain/ trauma and teens. 

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Janie Lacy is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and owner of Life Counseling Solutions (LCS), where they specialize in helping men and women recover and heal in order to become happier and healthier people. To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit her website, or stay connected to receive her advice and tips by signing up for the LCS newsletter.

This article was originally published at lifecounselingsolutions.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.