Having and providing social support is important to your self-care. Knowing when to reach out, who to reach out to, and how to set boundaries are all part of the process of looking after yourself. We’ve asked two Deakin students about how they handle social self-care.
How do I reach out to my friends when I’m struggling?
Firstly, well done on recognising you need help, and on your decision to reach out. Secondly, who you reach out to is a personal choice. For some it is easier to talk to a stranger/counsellor from Deakin Counselling And Psychological Support (CAPS) rather than reaching out to friends, but whatever you decide, make sure you are comfortable with it. Also, there is nothing stopping you from reaching out to multiple people! You can start with a counsellor and then talk to friends/family after, or vice versa.
Make sure you are honest and say how comfortable you are with sharing. If you find video calls/meetings intimidating, start off with a simple phone call or message. Communicate clearly how you’ve been struggling, tell them how you are feeling, and if they listen to you and respect your boundaries, there's a ton they can do to help.
How do I respond to friends asking how I am when I'm not okay?
It’s so difficult to respond “I’m not okay” because the questions that can follow, can be overwhelming. But know you don’t have to talk about anything you aren't comfortable with. If someone asks you “How are you doing?” or “Are you okay?” and you’re not okay but don’t want to go into details, there are alternative answers you can say;
- Ask me again tomorrow!
- I will be okay
- I am trying to be good
- I don’t want to talk about that just yet, but thank you for checking in on me
- I am not okay right now and don’t want to talk about it. Can we talk about something else instead?
Only you can decide what's best for you, whether that’s talking about your struggles or not.
How do I let people know in a nice way when I need some space to myself?
Please know it is okay to draw boundaries. If you are emotionally saturated you cannot accommodate the emotional needs of anyone else, hence it is important to know when to say no. As long as you communicate with others you need some time alone, they will leave you be. You can always say:
- That sounds like a great idea but maybe some other time? I really need this time to relax by myself
- I’d love to meet up with you next weekend! I am planning on having some me-time this weekend!
- Be nice and truthful. Self-care should always be a priority!
How do we develop boundaries on protecting our own mental health and the mental health of others?
This is so important! Boundaries differ from person to person. What may work for you, may not work for your friends, and vice-versa. Always ask yourself, “Do I have the energy, not only physically but also mentally, to do this or listen to this?”, and don’t ever feel guilty about making yourself a priority. YOU always come first!
Check on yourself, if talking to a friend for too long makes your anxious/mentally exhausted, limit the time you spend on calls. Be kind and honest. While your behaviour is in your control, how others respond is not. Don’t worry about that, do what's best for you! Reply/call back at your own pace. It's okay to decline a call if you’re not feeling up to talk, and you can always message whoever is trying to contact you, acknowledge them, and call back when you’re feeling up to it.
How do I ask my friends how they are, without asking “how are you”?
Some may find “how are you?” as a quite intimidating and deep question. Not everyone is comfortable responding to that, which is understandable. A simple way to check on a friend is by asking less anxious questions like “what did you have for lunch?” or exchanging photos of your food, something weird, or something funny. You could randomly message your friends to say, “Stay Hydrated!”, or challenge them to eat something healthy today, or send them a selfie to let them know you am thinking about them.
Alternatively, instead of questions, just letting your friend know you are there for them. Sending little messages like a “Good morning, hope you have a great day!” or “I hope you get good sleep, Goodnight!” shows your friend you support and care for them.
The best remedy (if possible and being COVID safe) is a tight hug!
How do we stay connected away from Zoom? And cope with Zoom fatigue?
While video-calls are the norm these days, especially for international students who are away from family and video-calls are the only way they can stay in touch with them, you don’t always have to have your camera on. If video-calls seem like a lot of work, sometimes voice-call or text message is enough. You could even start a GIF war with friends/family (where you use only GIF’s to communicate instead of long conversations with words). If you want to connect with new people, you can join in on DUSA Events where you play games like ‘Drawasaurus’ and meet new people!
Most importantly, whenever you can, unplug! This is a technique that work wonders! Unplugging from all devices at least 2 hours before bed and mostly during the weekend can relieve you from your Zoom fatigue.
While it's becoming increasingly difficult to have a social life these days, what most people are struggling with is being by themselves. Spend time with yourself, doing something you love or doing nothing at all. It's fun to find out how amusing you are, all by yourself! Know you don’t have to go through anything alone, your friend, family and Deakin CAPS are here to help you. Be kind to yourself! You’re basically a houseplant with legs, so make sure to get enough water and sunlight.