Stop Internalizing and Absorbing Other People's Problems
Every last one of us is guilty of absorbing another person’s problems, and internalizing their pain. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it, let alone how often we do it. Taking on the pain of others is part of loving them, and being a good friend, right?
Not always! Depending on the size of the problems being shared with you, these problems could be harming you! Every time you choose to listen as a loved one tells you their problems and then take those problems on as your own, you create unnecessary stress on your mind and body. It’s time to learn how to listen, and not carry the weight on your shoulders. You have your own problems, no need to pile on!
How Internalizing Other People’s Problems Affects Your Overall Health
Worrying in general kills our spirit, and our joy. What has a person ever gained from worrying about any problem? Just health issues, both mental and physical!
When we’re good listeners and advice givers, people seek us out. Can you blame them? An ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and excellent advice wrapped up in one person is like the mother load, right?
However, listening to other people’s problems often results in the one listening obsessively thinking about the other person’s problems and how to fix them. Or, just feeling as if we’re letting the one with the problems down, because we can’t fix what’s wrong.
Focusing on the problem, how to fix it, or feeling guilt over being unable to fix it creates a ton of mental gymnastics around stuff that just isn’t ours to take on. It pulls us from living our own lives, and handling our own trials and tribulations.
When you’re mentally taxing yourself with stress, worry, and guilt, your body starts to take a hit. Tension throughout your body, especially your neck and shoulders starts to take its toll on your everyday life. Headaches, along with stomach issues and probably teeth grinding, can start to spring up. That’s just the start, but if these things are happening, pay attention to them and break the cycle to save your sanity and physical health.
Avoid Absorbing Other People’s Problems
The first step to avoiding the internalization of the problems other people share with you: knowing why you’re doing it. More often than not, if your friends repeatedly find you to unload their problems onto, you probably have your own demons to battle.
Perhaps you feel a need to please people and need validation from others. Maybe you thrive on drama, because drama in a home means there is love in it. Really, only you and a professional can determine why you internalize everything around you, including the problems of other people.
You can listen without absorbing problems, or releasing the worries from your mind quickly after absorbing them.
Spend Time in Nature
After a bitch session with a friend, where they do all the bitching while you absorb all the bitching - and you feel exhausted mentally and physically - head out into nature. If you live near a park, go for a walk and really listen to the sounds around you. Visit the beach, a lake, a stream, or if you live close to one, a waterfall. Water has a powerful effect on healing your mind. Just find a space to get out of your own mind.
Whatever makes you feel good, and can help cleanse your mind of all the issues you’ve sat and listened to for an extended period of time. If journaling helps you, write down everything swimming around in your head, and then release it from your mind! Does reading help center you? Pick up your favorite book and get lost in another world for a little bit.
No, this doesn’t mean take your phone away and not be allowed out of your room! You’re not a child who skipped school. However, putting your phone away and meditating is a great way to get yourself grounded. The goal is to find an inner sense of calm, so you can balance out all of the mess your loved one dumped on you.
If you still can’t help but take on and internalize the worries of others, the best way to preserve your mental health, along with your physical health, is to start creating boundaries.
Create Boundaries to Preserve Your Mental Health
Other people’s problems are THEIR problems. Simple idea, but if you don’t start creating and maintaining healthy boundaries with others, your physical and mental health will continue to decline.
Let Friends Know Advice Giving is Over
When approached to get coffee, or catch up over a drink, be prepared. We all know getting coffee or a drink to catch up translates to you, the shoulder, listening and expecting to not just give advice, but take on all the issues as your own.
This will be your moment, your chance, your opportunity to let your friend know the advice-giving you once supplied, isn’t being offered anymore. As soon as the conversation turns into a verbal diarrhea of problems plaguing your friend, speak up and let your friend know in a kind way: I understand you’re going through some rough times, but so am I, and I’m unable to really handle more than my own right now. But let’s discuss some positive wins, and talk about future plans together instead.
If you truly don’t feel that a friend won’t understand that you aren’t able to handle other people’s issues, just say no to talking to them. Decline meetups, don’t answer the phone, or respond with a polite text that you’re unable to talk.
Basically, be honest with yourself about how absorbing the problems that aren’t your own are hindering your ability to live your life to the fullest. Once you get yourself right, then you can be honest with your loved ones: sometimes you just can’t be the shoulder to cry on and offer advice. That’s what professionals are for.
Breaking the Cycle Can’t Always Be Done Alone
Trying to break the cycle of muddling through after internalizing your loved ones problems isn’t always something you can do on your own. There are plenty of helpful resources you can use to help you through the process, and professional assistance is always available!