Supporting yourself can help loved ones who are struggling with their mental health

November 15, 2023

When a loved one won’t seek treatment for their mental health, we will often feel a sense of absolute despair, hopelessness and frustration. It can be incredibly painful to watch those we love suffering, especially when there is a visible pathway toward recovery being offered. As the old saying goes, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. In other words, true change needs to come from within the individual.

Although it can feel counterintuitive to do so, we must try to release ourselves from the burden of constantly carrying hurt and fear around with us. We can do this by telling our loved one that we love them deeply, that we will be there for them when they are ready to accept help, but we are making ourselves a priority now too. This doesn’t mean we are abandoning them, or de-prioritising them, we are simply bringing our own needs up to the top of the list as well.

Self-compassion is never selfish

It’s a normal reaction to drop everything to help those we love most. But when we de-prioritise our own physical, social and emotional needs to do so, we place our own mental health at risk of decline as well. We may ourselves turn to substances or behaviours in order to cope with stress and uncertainty, despite seeing the negative impact this has had on our loved one. Many people who find themselves in a carer role for someone become impacted by guilt when they take time for themselves, or feel joy. They wish their loved one was there too, or able to experience joyful moments too. This can lead to us isolating and avoiding the things that make us happiest, because we don’t believe we are entitled to experiencing them all the while our loved one is suffering. Over time, these beliefs can become habitual, and it can be hard to break free of them.

How to start caring for ourselves again

It’s important to recognise when we are feeling drained during challenging times, and take action to recharge ourselves by engaging in things that fulfil us in terms of our physical and emotional health. Here are some ways you can nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually:

1. Start with small steps

The smallest actions can help us break free out of negative beliefs or behaviour patterns we may have developed over time. It could be as simple as taking an extra minute before starting work to notice the beauty of our natural environment, taking a short walk in the morning or even investing some time in our physical appearance – as long as it is something that nourishes us. It’s important we don’t minimise these actions – they all add up to an increased sense of self-worth.

2. Become more mindful

Research shows that practising just a few minutes of mindfulness every day allows us to slow down our reactions to the stressors of everyday life. If we have been existing in a chronic fight or flight state for a prolonged time, mindfulness can help us pave new neural pathways that help us exhibit more appropriate reactions to our environment and the people within it, as well as an added bonus of feeling a general sense of calm and wellbeing.

3. Discover your spirituality

We are all inherently spiritual, even though we may not know it. The most basic of experiences can fill our spiritual cup, whether it’s mindfully listening to the sounds of nature, noticing a bird soaring over the ocean, meditating or practising a religion. Any or all of these things can help us remember that we are part of something bigger and that we are all connected in some way which in turn brings us a sense of comfort and inspiration.

4. Connect with others

One of the greatest risks to our physical and psychological health is loneliness. When we are challenged, we may find that we isolate ourselves from others for not wanting to burden friends and family with our problems, or perhaps feeling a sense of detachment from the social circles we used to run in. It’s so important to stay connected with other people during difficult times, so run a mental audit of who in your life brings you a sense of comfort and joy, and be sure to reach out to them.

5. Seek your own treatment

Supporting a loved one with mental health issues or addiction can be in and of itself a traumatic experience. It is important that when we have experienced traumatic or challenging times in our lives that we take time for ourselves to work through how it may have negatively impacted us. We can begin to do this by speaking with a therapist one-on-one or completing an inpatient stay with a facility such as South Pacific Private, so we can recalibrate, explore our past experiences and learn how to better relate to those around us in a safe and supported environment.

Supporting a loved one who is not yet ready to accept help for mental health issues or addiction is an extremely challenging experience, but above all, offering yourself kindness and maintaining your own good mental health is paramount. Often our loved one’s will come around to the idea of accepting help in their own time, so be sure to take good care of yourself until that day comes.

South Pacific Private recognises that addiction is a family disease. If you would like to know more about how South Pacific Private’s program could be of benefit to you and your family, take a free self-assessment or reach out to our team on 1800 063 332.

Online Self Assessments

Learn more about key indicators of addiction, trauma and mental health conditions by taking an assessment for yourself, or on behalf of a loved-one.

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