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Fact Sheet

Helping a friend but feeling stressed out?

Helping a friend can be hard

Trying to help a friend through a tough time can be hard on you too. After hearing about your friend’s feelings, it is common to feel shocked, sad, scared or overwhelmed but it’s impossible to help other people if you can’t first care for yourself. Here are some ideas to help you look after yourself:

Listen to your feelings. You care about your friend, and so it’s only natural that you’ll be affected by his or her distress. Acknowledge how you’re feeling—including what makes you comfortable an uncomfortable about the situation, and what you’re willing to talk about with your friend.

Talk to someone you trust. If you’ve had a similar experience to the one your friend is having, it might bring up old feelings for you. Seeing your friend upset might also upset you. Other times, it might just be hard to comprehend everything that’s happening in your friend’s life. Regardless of how you’re feeling, it’s important that you have emotional support from the people around you so that you can continue to be a support for your friend. It can help to talk to someone who is removed from the situation about how you’re feeling. And while you don’t have to tell this person exactly what your friend is going through, it might also be helpful to seek advice on how you can help your friend. You might want to talk to another friend, a family member, counselor or teacher. Check out the Get Help section for more information about how these people can support you.

Take time out for yourself. It’s great to talk to others about how you’re feeling, but it’s also important that you have time alone to reflect on what you’re going through. You might try listening to some music, going for a walk or run, or just watching some T.V. by yourself to clear your head. At the same time, make sure you’re still doing what you like to do. Hang out with your friends, take a class keep up with your routine as much as you want to or can. Check out the fact sheets on Relaxation or Coping with a stressful event for more ideas on how you can chill out.

Recognize your limits. Your friend is lucky to have you! But even though you’d like to do everything in your power to help your friend, sometimes it’s important to acknowledge that some factors are out of your control or comfort zone. It’s important that you’re comfortable with your level of involvement in your friend’s situation. Remember that staying within your boundaries doesn’t make you any less of a friend.


Nemours Foundation website, Stress
Columbia University, Go Ask Alice website
American Cancer Society website, Talking with friends and family

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