Dear Sue: Stressed-Out Stephanie
For as long as I can remember, I have been the person all of my friends turn to when they need help. They tell me all of their secrets and constantly ask me for advice about how to deal with their problems. Recently, I have been feeling a little overwhelmed by all of this. I have so many people coming to me needing my help that it’s prevented me from addressing the problems in my own life. Not only do I have to worry about my own problems, but I have the added stress of their problems as well. I enjoy helping them whenever I can, but lately it has just felt like a burden. How do I continue to help my friends while also making sure that I am not overcommitting myself?
I’m sorry that you’re feeling so overwhelmed right now. It’s already a stressful time of the year, and to have to deal with added pressure that seems like it is very draining. It’s great that you enjoy being the person your friends confide in, but it sounds like it’s time to take a break. I suggest that you try talking to your friends about how you feel. They may not even realize the effect it’s having on you. To them, you’re the one who always knows what to do, and it may not have occurred to them that sometimes you need help, too. While it may make you feel good to help your friends with their problems, you’ll only feel worse in the end if you overcommit yourself. The next time a friend approaches you with a problem, respectfully tell them that you have a lot going on in your life right now, and that you simply need to focus on your own problems before trying to help others. If an issue is truly urgent, you can refer your friends to the on-campus Counseling Center, which is designed specifically to help students in these kinds of situations. You may even find that you want to visit yourself to get some advice about your own problems. You could also look to tried-and-true methods of stress relief, like exercise or meditation, to see if they help at all.
Once you have been honest with your friends and your own life has begun to settle down a bit, try and be more mindful about what you’re getting yourself into in the future. You don’t have to stop helping your friends altogether, but don’t forget to set aside some time to deal with problems of your own. You should also make a point to incorporate more stress-relief activities into your routine so that you don’t become overwhelmed again. It’s great to be able to help your friends when they need you, but remember that you are just as worthy of your attention as they are.
Sue Z. Maroon