On Taking Care of Others

Taking care of others is important. If we ignore the needs of others, we turn into self-absorbed narcissists. But what if you’re the exact opposite? What if you give and give, to the point of compromising your physical and mental health?

Unfortunately, this sometimes the case for people who have anxiety disorders.

Most people with anxiety disorder are highly sensitive and empathetic. We hate seeing people suffer, especially our loved ones. We’ll often do whatever it takes to care for others, even at the expense of ourselves. This manifests by:

  • having difficulty saying “No”
  • keeping quiet about their opinions
  • not talking about certain topics in an effort to not upset the other person

Motivations for these behaviors vary from person to person, but here are some common reasons:

  • They don’t want to burden you.
  • They don’t want to make you feel upset.
  • They fear being abandoned in their time of need.
  • They feel selfish if they put themselves first.
  • They want to avoid conflict, even if it comes at a cost to themselves.

If your loved one displays these behaviors, there’s plenty you can do to help them. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t take advantage of their empathy and kindness, and don’t pressure them to say yes to another commitment. You can still ask, but qualify your request by saying “if you have time”, “if you’re not busy”, etc. Tell them that there’s no pressure; tell them that you can get someone else to do it if they can’t.
  2. Encourage them to talk to you, no matter how painful the topic may be. Don’t let them suffer in silence.
  3. Remind them (repeatedly, if necessary) that they are not a burden. You guys, this is a big one. Many people who have anxiety disorders feel like they’re a burden because they have extra struggles.
  4. Remind them that it’s okay to make themself a priority. Remind them that they aren’t being selfish by taking care of themself.
  5. If their opinions/requests often go unheard, speak up for them. Try to honor their requests whenever possible. If you’re going out for dinner and your loved one wants pizza, order a pizza. Honoring their opinions and requests means the world to them, and you’re showing them that their opinions and desires matter.

To those who have anxiety disorders:

  1. You are not a burden. Yes, you may have extra struggles, but that doesn’t make you a burden. Everyone has struggles. I say that not to invalidate your struggles, but to tell you that you are no less worthy of love.
  2. Don’t be afraid to make yourself a priority. You’re not being selfish. It is possible to take things to far, but at the same time, don’t neglect yourself. Self-care can reduce your anxiety and even prevent relapses. Having an anxiety disorder is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and treat yourself to something special every once in a while. Also, remember that it’s much easier to care for someone else if your needs are taken care of.
  3. If a person truly loves you, they’re not going to abandon you just for voicing your opinion or talking about something upsetting. If they love you, they will give you the opportunity to say what you want to say without making you feel guilty or ashamed.
  4. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Sometimes people disagree. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love you or they’re going to leave you. No one’s perfect, and sometimes arguments happen. In a healthy relationship, people will reconcile with each other after an argument.

Remember, there’s no shame in being a highly sensitive and empathetic person. The world needs more sensitivity and empathy. However, being a sensitive, empathetic person means that you have to take care of yourself. Otherwise, it can lead to your physical and mental health being compromised. Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself; you deserve it

4 thoughts on “On Taking Care of Others”

  1. Hi Margaret. I love this post. Although I don’t have anxiety, I do suffer from mental illness and know people that do have anxiety. What you have said here is bound to help someone, whether they have it or know someone that does.


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