According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, every one in three adults aged 16 years and above in Malaysia suffers from some form of mental health issues. That means the probability of you knowing someone struggling to keep their mental health in check is high.
That someone could be your loved one, your best friend, or your colleague. Perhaps you are mentally and physically exhausted attempting to give a helping hand, and you are beginning to feel as though anxiety is about to welcome itself into your life. Your life does not have to unfold that way.
Here are four methods to practice self-care when a loved one has difficulty coping with mental health problems.
1. Set boundaries and make them clear.
The principle of establishing boundaries tends to receive a bad reception. Frequently, when people hear “draw the line,” they believe that is a selfish behaviour; that you are not permitting someone from witnessing your true self by not putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Particularly from a relationship point of view where mental health issue is a prominent aspect, it is not hard to decipher boundaries as being unkind or uncaring.
I confess that this idea conquered my mind when I came across the word “boundaries” for the first time. Fortunately, as I begin to interpret what constitutes healthy boundaries, I learned that this notion of boundaries being self-centred is entirely bogus.
Boundaries have two purposes: they allow you to assist your loved one based on reasonable grounds, and they prevent you from being overwhelmed emotionally when doing so.
Fundamentally, a boundary is a sensor that informs you to stop when enough is enough.
2. Remind yourself of your individuality.
When your loved one is experiencing a mental health issue, it does not take much to be trapped in their ordeals. When they are worried, you are worried too. You feel their pain, and soon, your happy mood goes away. Reminding yourself that you are your own person who has their own set of emotions and experiences can be challenging. For this reason, it is vital to inform yourself of your individuality periodically.
Ultimately, your loved one is the only person who can decide whether they want to fight through their struggles or keep their chin down. You can support them and lend a hand when they ask for it. However, you cannot solve their problems. By default, it is their responsibility to change their unhealthy behaviours or mentality.
You are already carrying so much weight on your shoulders. If you are having trouble observing where your emotions end and theirs start, it is a sign telling you that now would be a good time to put in place healthy boundaries.
3. Avoid troubles.
The quote “prevention is always better than cure” may be said too frequently, but you cannot argue against it. When a loved one is fighting for their mental health, the best course of action is to make a special effort to prove to yourself that your wellbeing is your top priority.
No one can run away from bad days. Your dog urinates on your couch, you forget to bring your water along with you to work, and your manager is not in a mood for pleasantries. Then, just when you think the day cannot get any worse, your car breaks down on the road. You may conclude that it is the worst day of your life. Well, hold up: what if you had been wearing your favourite pair of shoes, you had a delicious breakfast, and you had just been offered a chance to participate in an international assignment, and then your car decides to fail on you? Would your conclusion change? Most likely.
Final 2¢: You first.
Spare some time daily to do something that lifts your spirits and puts a smile on your face. It does not need to be costly, both in terms of money and time. The whole idea is to prioritise the things that you enjoy doing. These hobbies will serve as a safety net that catches your fall when things get out of control. It is vital to be someone’s pillar of support. But then, you have to look after yourself as well.