How to look after yourself

Advice for looking after yourself when you're supporting someone else. Because your wellbeing matters too.

Looking after yourself when you're supporting someone else

When someone you care about is facing challenges with drugs, alcohol or mental health, it’s natural to want to be there for them. But it’s important to remember to prioritise your own wellbeing too. 

By caring for yourself, you create even more capacity to be a source of strength for others.

Look after your own needs 

Seeing someone you care about experiencing difficulties can be a very emotional and tiring experience, especially if you’re navigating it on your own. Often, we lose sight of what we need to stay healthy and happy ourselves.

But if we don’t care for ourselves, how can we support anyone else?

It’s important to look after both your physical health and your emotional wellbeing.

Try to maintain a healthy diet, with a good balance of rest and activity. Think about what supports your emotional wellbeing.  It could be spending time outdoors, seeing people who make you laugh or buying yourself some flowers – whatever gives you a boost and keeps you going.

Build more of these small, positive rewards into your life.

Support the person, rather than their drinking or drug use

Do you feel like you’re always picking up the pieces for your loved one?

Do you try to protect them by covering up for them or keeping their drinking or drug use secret?

Sometimes we think we’re helping someone, but what we’re actually doing is cushioning them from the effects of their drinking or drug use.

Because you’re taking responsibility for your loved one’s actions, it’s easier for them to carry on as they are.

It can be helpful to let your loved one experience the consequences of their drinking or drug use where possible. This can help give them the awareness and motivation they need to change.

Think about how you can support the person you care about without supporting their alcohol or drug use.

You could try helping them get to a medical appointment, or supporting them to eat healthily. Or just checking in on them each week to see how they are.

Put some boundaries in place

When someone you care about is facing challenges, life can feel chaotic and stressful. Putting some clear boundaries in place can make things feel calmer and more manageable.

Boundaries are the limits we have when it comes to other people’s behaviour. For example, you may draw the line at having drugs in your home. 

Similarly, supporting someone with mental health challenges could mean staying with them during a doctor's call if it triggers their anxiety. However, making the call for them can cross a boundary. It's about being present, offering encouragement, and listening, rather than taking over tasks for them.

It’s helpful to see setting boundaries as something for you and your loved one to decide on together.

Ask for some time to talk things through. Be honest, and try to stay calm and positive.

Grow your support network

Building a strong support network is an important part of looking after yourself. It can be harder to deal with things when you feel alone. 

Think about your friends, family and neighbours. Who can you ask for support? Who have you not spoken to for a while?

Self-care isn't selfish!

Remember, self-care isn't selfish; it's a basic human need. It not only benefits you, but also ensures you're in the best position to provide support to your loved ones when they need it. 

Reach out and get support

WithYou offers free, confidential support to anyone affected by someone else’s drinking, drug use or mental health. You don’t have to do this alone.

You can:

Get in touch with your local WithYou service

Stay safe

If you’re experiencing violent or abusive behaviour, you can call the free 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

If you’re seriously concerned about your own or someone else’s safety, call 999.