Over the past year, I have been having an ongoing discussion with my mother about being helpful. My mother is a person who is nice to everyone and is always willing to be helpful. At times in my life I have worried that her helpful response has left her in a position in which she is being taken advantage of by others. This has made me wonder where we draw the line between being helpful and experiencing burnout?
There is scientific evidence that being nice can have health benefits such as boosting serotonin production, easing of anxiety, and increasing production of oxytocin (which is a cardioprotective chemical produced in the body contributing to heart health and decreased inflammation properties). However, being helpful to the point that you are not being honest in your communication or relationships diminishes these benefits as it leads to feelings of discontent and resentment. If you consistently feel responsible for the feelings of others, drop everything you need to accomplish in order to do something for someone else, or fear rejection if you say no to a request for help, you may want to consider finding greater balance between helping others and caring for yourself.
In talking with my mother, I know finding this balance can be difficult, so here are a few tips:
- Set Boundaries: Give yourself permission to set boundaries. For example, if Sunday is family fun day, then say no to requests for help on Sunday.
- Practice Self-Care: If your motivation for feeling like you need to say yes to requests for help is due to a fear of rejection, perhaps focus on creating more self-care practices which will help increase your self-confidence. Being brave enough to value yourself will help you to have healthy and genuine relationships.
- Prioritize Healthy Giving: If responding to a request for help requires you to forego your own responsibilities (which leads to you feeling guilty for falling behind on your own tasks), then respond with an honest explanation as to why you’re not able to help given your current situation. We all have times in our lives where we are able to give more and times in our lives where we are able to give less.
- Be True To Yourself: There was a “Friends” episode years ago where Phoebe responded to an invitation by saying, “I wish I could, but I don’t want to.” It made me laugh as I thought of times that response was true for me as well. Of course, we all find ourselves in situations where we are helping out of obligation instead of perhaps true desire to be there, which is all part of having responsibilities. However, finding a balance between doing things we want to do and releasing the guilt from not doing things we don’t want to do is what helps us feel gratitude and stay out of resentment.
I know I’m still working on finding this balance and some days I’m better at it than others. If you would like to talk with someone more about how to find your balance, please contact me.
Coordinator of Student, Family & Community Services