focus on yourselfUnless you’re lucky enough to have teams of people running around after you – which, let’s face it, is a tiny percentage of society – it likely takes up most of your energy just to look like you’re on top of everything. Worrying about your rent and bills and job and social life and all the other little issues that make up life is the bare minimum we have to do to get by, but it can still be overwhelming.

When you’ve got friends and family who you care about, too, it can feel like too much.

Obviously, if you have legitimate dependants – your kids or elderly relatives or whoever else you’ve pledged regular time to – you will have to take their problems into significant consideration.

But when your loved ones are in trouble – or just consistently irresponsible – and you can’t help but worry about them, it can be difficult to remember that their problems aren’t yours.

It’s not only normal but admirable to want to help out the people around you. Becoming generous and kind and helpful is a noble and worthwhile goal. But don’t get so caught up in doing things for others that you lose track of your own responsibilities.

Sometimes, it isn’t easy to see when someone else’s problem is getting lumped onto you. Often, other people won’t realise it either. But remember, when you start to feel as if your effort is going unappreciated, to stop and take stock of the situation.

There are some key questions you can ask yourself to figure out if something is worth your energy.

IS IT YOUR PROBLEM?

If resolving this problem would have absolutely no impact on your life, why are you worrying about it? That impact can include the distress you feel at seeing someone you care about struggling. But if you’re spending time and effort and maybe money trying to fix an issue that doesn’t make much of a difference to your life, then maybe that’s a sign that you shouldn’t care so much about it. If it’s someone else’s responsibility, think about whether or not they are capable of handling it on their own. If they are, then let them deal with it. If they’re not, maybe they should learn how to. Work out if whatever is bothering you is actually bothering you, or if you’ve taken it on to stop it bothering someone else. If it’s not really your problem, take a moment to decide if whoever’s problem it is really needs your help.

HAVE YOU BEEN ASKED FOR HELP?

If you have taken it upon yourself to help someone, then you should stop to consider whether that was the right choice. If someone hasn’t directly asked you for help, maybe they just don’t need it. It’s nice to offer help when you someone needs it, but it is polite to make sure they want it beforehand. Sometimes, people want to see if they can cope on their own. They might want the challenge. It’s not worth putting yourself to a lot of trouble if you won’t be appreciated. Some people might not even notice you trying. If you wait until you’re asked for help, you won’t risk taking on so much of someone else’s problems that you can’t deal with your own.

IS THIS GOING TO BURN YOU OUT?

Even if you have been asked for help and someone genuinely needs it, that doesn’t mean you still need to take it on if there’s already enough on your plate. If putting more of your energy than you can afford into an issue is your only option, don’t do it. No matter how much someone needs your help, you won’t be able to help anyone if you completely burn yourself out. If you don’t have the resources – whether that means your money or your time or your health – then don’t feel obliged to push yourself. Most people – the people it’s worth keeping around, anyway – will understand if you’re not able to help. They will appreciate that you have your own things to worry about and will respect that you need to focus on you for a while.

It’s wonderful to be the kind of person that others can turn to for a hand from time to time. But don’t let people walk all over you.

Don’t get so caught up in other people’s nonsense that you forget to look after you.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

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