What to do when you want to help someone but are feeling emotionally drained
Here’s a little known fact about me: somewhere in college, between my high school career of working on robotics for the FIRST Robotics Competition; my college “internship” (read: full time year round lead engineering job for minimum wage) working on military robots; and my current place as CEO of MARCo Technologies, now working on mental health robots, I worked for about a month as a lifeguard.
I never really liked the job (too much sitting around doing nothing for someone with a history of anxiety over the need to do something productive with my time), but I did like the idea of rescuing people, of helping people in need.
Which is why I found it very surprising when we took courses about when to NOT save someone, or find a different way. It was all about assessing the situation and not going into the water if you were worried about the conditions or if the person was too much for you to handle. It surprised me at first – lifeguards are supposed to guard lives no matter what! – until I thought about it in terms of a conversation I had with a close friend of mine months earlier when I was having a mental breakdown and feeling extremely emotionally drained.
One of my concerns was I had no idea how to keep up with taking care of the people I cared about, even though I was feeling emotionally drained from a relationship, and she replied that “you can’t fill other people’s cups if your cup is empty. You have to fill your cup up first and then you’ll have plenty to fill others’ with.”
Now, I don’t know you, dear reader, but I assume you are a good person. And as a good person, you might find it easy to want to help the people you care about, the same way I thought a lifeguard should try and save someone no matter what the situation. You might even try to help when you are emotionally drained, but this will just leave you even MORE emotionally drained than before.
In those cases, as much as you want to help, you’ll end up only making things worse for yourself, and you won’t give the kind of care you’d hope for to the person you want to help.
When someone you care about needs help with their mental health, it’s important to make sure that you are not too emotionally drained before helping them. As much as it might make you feel guilty, you can’t pour into someone else’s cup if yours is empty.
How to Deal with Emotionally Draining Individuals
Naturally, you might be thinking “okay I know I need to take care of myself, but it’s not easy to just let emotionally draining individuals go without making things worse for everyone.” So how do you deal with emotionally draining individuals, especially if you feel emotionally drained from relationships?
The best thing is to follow a gentle confrontation model to a) address the fact that you understand how they feel and that you want to help, b) share with them that you are also feeling drained, and c) offer them other sources of support.
You can learn how to deal with emotionally draining individuals in 6 easy steps with the gentle confrontation model!
Step 1: Acknowledge that you understand how they feel
From the image above, you can see an example of what this involves. You want to empathize with them; show them that you are on their side.
The more details you can use about what you understand about their situation, the better! Make it personal, that you do understand what they are going through as best you can.
Step 2: Tell them that you do want to help them
Share with them that you want to help. Again, you are on their side throughout this whole process, even if you are following this process as a way of how to deal with emotionally draining individuals.
Step 3: Share how you are emotionally drained
If they’ve come to you for help with their mental health, chances are you can be open about yours with them. Let them know how you are personally feeling without adding emotionally charged words.
Use lots of feeling words; it is much better to share what you feel rather than what you are thinking or seeing!
Step 4: Don't leave them isolated... Offer alternatives to you!
This part is as much for you as it is for them. You might feel guilty not being able to do more, but you can still help by getting them help beyond yourself!
Whether it’s another friend or a professional resource or even a therapy app recommendation, you can guide them to other sources so they feel that they still have hope to get help and that you are not leaving them alone. Just make sure that you don’t refer them to someone else who finds them to be an incredibly emotionally draining individual or knows how to deal with emotionally draining individuals.
Step 5: Offer something to help them with when you feel less emotionally drained
Again, this is as much for you as for the emotionally draining individual. Make a plan for something to do together when you are in a better place emotionally and mentally.
This way, you can show that you are still thinking about them, and you give them hope for the future, something they will need.
Step 6: Listen to Lizzo, because it's time to focus on you
Whatever you need to do to get yourself feeling better, work on it! It can be working with a mental health professional, doing something fun and enjoyable, or using one of the aforementioned therapy apps.
And there you have it! A quick overview of how to deal with emotionally draining individuals in a gentle, safe, and healthy way!
If you are looking to help with your feeling emotionally drained, MARCo – the Mental-Health Assisting Robot Companion – can help you out. Have a companion for your mental health for life, any time you need one with MARCo.