Our NHS People

Looking after yourself

  • Supporting someone else – even for the duration of a conversation – can be an emotional experience.
  • So it’s important to be aware of how it affects you and ask for support if you need it.
  • If you don’t feel like you’re in the right space to start a conversation, perhaps ask someone else to see if they’re able to help out.
  • Video Cary Cooper looking after yourself while supporting others

You know, it’s really important because when we reach out to people, it has implications for us. We kind of reflect on it. It may upset us because some. But he tells us something highly personal, very emotional, very distressing for them. So I think it’s really important to try to digest what you’ve just heard and think about yourself and how it’s affecting you. And if it’s affecting you in a negative way, you need to reach out. And it could be reaching out to a friend, a work colleague, your partner could be anybody. But if you feel having been involved in this emotional interchange, that you need your self help, then go get it.

You know, once you reach out to somebody else, it’s important to understand that there’s a lot of emotionality in doing that and that it’s important for you to look after yourself after that kind of an event. And that means keeping yourself physically fit, emotionally fit and ensuring that you have a kind of social support system. Somebody can turn to, a family member, a work colleague, a friend, and that and it’s it’s critical for your own well-being. This may only be a one off incident, but you may do more of this in the workplace. And so it’s important that you stay focussed, emotionally focussed.

I think before you offer anybody support, you have to ask yourself several questions. Number one, am I in the right state and I mean psychological state to actually listen to other people’s issues and problems? Do I have the personal disposable time to offer them? Will I be able to listen to them or am I worried about my job and I have to get back and do other things? I think those are really important things to consider before you actually go to somebody and offer your help to them. And if you feel you can’t do that, any of those. I think it’s important to… you might help the person but in a different sort of way, you might encourage him to go to somebody else. You might actually tell somebody that they’re in trouble, maybe their line manager, depending on the nature of the relationship between the line manager and that person. But you can help in a variety of other ways other than actually being there directly for them.

What to do if helping someone takes a toll on you

  • No one can give another person everything they need, especially through difficult times. 
  • It’s important to manage your own expectations, as well as theirs, about what is a practical amount of support for you to give. Otherwise, you may start feeling you are letting them down or failing. 
  • Try and get other friends or family members involved. This will take the pressure off you and help the person you’re supporting get more of the help they need to feel better. 

Managing your emotions and reactions

  • Few of us feel bright and happy all the time, but it’s important to feel at least ‘okay’ if you’re trying to be there for someone.
  • If you are going through a difficult time, or you have things that are overwhelming you in your own life, think about whether you are the right person to offer support. 
  • There may be a risk that they start feeling the pressure of your problems on top of their own. And that won’t help. 
  • Or it could make it harder for you to think clearly about how to respond and react to what they are telling you. 
  • This doesn’t mean you can’t share their worries. It’s understandable for you to be upset if someone you care about has told you something very sad or upsetting. 
  • In this situation, it’s important to find someone you can trust to talk things through with afterwards. This might be a friend, a member of your family or a colleague. Samaritans are here to listen too, and we can help you work through what’s on your mind with no judgement and no pressure. 

What do Samaritans volunteers do after an emotional conversation?

  • “I go for a walk. Even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes outside in the fresh air.”
  • “I make myself a cup of tea and have at least a couple of biscuits.”
  • “I have a cup of my favourite hot chocolate.”
  • “I put on a trashy TV programme. Something that I don’t have to concentrate on but which is background babble.”
  • “I put the radio on in the car and sing out loud on my way home.”
  • “I listen to an audiobook and switch off from the rest of the world.”

An important note:

These options might not be possible for you, so what can you do after an emotional conversation?

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