Too Anxious, Too Exhausted, and Too Stressed for Friendships

business meetingYou are in a meeting that took weeks to arrange when your phone starts vibrating every 30 seconds.  You immediately run through the whereabouts of your family: kids are at school, husband is at work, and mom is playing golf so what could be so important.  Then panic begins as you imagine your child having an accident and being rushed to the hospital, your husband in a deadly car accident, or someone in the family dying.  So you check your phone discreetly only to find 15 messages from your friend.

Really?  Can’t this latest drama last till the end of the meeting?  But your phone keeps going off with new additional messages until you find that you are no longer participating in the meeting and severely distracted by the thoughts circling in your head wondering if your house is on fire or your friend is in jail.  So you cave and excuse yourself to return the dreaded phone call.

“I need to know what pumps to wear with my new black dress”, the panicked voice on the other end says.  Now you are angry that you go so anxious over nothing, exhausted from the million catastrophes that raided your mind, and stressed out from the unending craziness that hovers over your friend like a black cloud constantly raining on your parade.

Reasons for friendships.  You thought that having friendships would reduce your anxiety through shared experiences, alleviate your exhaustion by providing much-needed emotional support and minimize your stress by having someone to talk to.  But it doesn’t or at least has not in this case or the case before.  Now you are left wondering how to get rid of this ridiculous friendship and wondering if the risk of adding another friendship, even if it might be helpful, is really worth all of the effort.  After all, friendships require an investment of time, energy and intimacy all of which has long been long depleted from your account.

Get rid of the baggage.  Begin with the end in mind.  Friendships can be extremely helpful but if you find that you no longer care about which color pumps to wear then it is time to get rid of the friendships that do.  Backing away from a friend is difficult and there are two ways to effectively go about it.  One is the direct approach where you explain that you need to stop the friendship; the old “it’s not you, it’s me” approach.  The other way is to pull back a little at a time until the friendship is in the distance instead of so close by waiting 24 hours to return phone calls or respond to texts.

Less is more. In the end, you are better off with a few close friends that mutually support and encourage you instead of more friends that drain you.  But having a few close friends means kissing a lot of frogs along the way to see which will turn into a treasure.  More importantly, it means being a good friend to others so you can attract quality friendships.

Making the first move.  Sometimes you have to initiate a friendship by doing an act of kindness, listening to them complain, being empathetic when there is a problem, or just simply asking them to join you for a cup of coffee.  Don’t wait for others to make the first move or you are likely to fall into the dysfunctional friendship all over again.  Dysfunctional people are like leeches sticking to whatever surface that doesn’t repel them.  So stop being a target for them and make the first move.

Allow for grace.  Once you have started a friendship, have a couple of boundaries ready to keep you from falling back into your old pattern.  If for instance, your friend crosses a boundary such as calling after midnight, give grace once but after that if your boundary keeps being violated, then cut the friendship off.  The sooner you do this the better the result.

Risk intimacy.  In order for a friendship to reduce anxiety, alleviate exhaustion and minimize stress intimacy must be a two-way street.  You should not be giving more intimacy than your friend nor the other way around.  It must work together and naturally.  If not, this is not a close friend.

Know your seasons.  In every season of life, you will have different types of friends for different reasons.  When you were dating, your friendships were other single women.  When you got married and had kids, your friendships likewise were married with kids.  When you changed jobs, your friendships also changed.  This is normal.  Don’t try to force a friendship that was never meant to last beyond a season in your life.

Quality friendships can be extremely refreshing, encouraging, and are well worth the time, energy, risk and intimacy to achieve.  But with anything, practice makes perfect so don’t expect to have this down right away.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

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The Curse of the Overly Responsible Person

It is such a huge burden when you are the only responsible person in the room.  Why can’t everyone around you just see how much work you have to do all day long?  If only this person would do this and that person would do that then everything would be fine.  But no, instead you have to do this and that because no one else will do it and it must be done.  While doing everyone else’s work is tiring and can provoke you to anger, secretly you actually enjoy being the person who gets it all done.  After all, if this person did this and that person did that then how can you be admired for all the extra work you do?

The curse of being overly responsible is that without irresponsible people around, how can you be overly responsible?  This means that at some level you actually get satisfaction from being overly responsible or you would not keep doing it.  So, what does it mean to be overly responsible?  It means that you take on more responsibility for things or people to the point of excluding others from taking on their own responsibility.  This exclusion sometimes comes if the form of criticism for how a task was accomplished.  For instance, say you were at a budget meeting where everyone was to analyze their own areas and then present suggestions at a meeting.  You may not like the manner in which one person chooses to complete the task claiming that it is insufficient.  Instead of teaching them how to do the task, you find it easier to “just to it myself so that it is done right”.  This is overly responsible behavior and you are driving everyone around you crazy.  So what can you do?

Stop taking on other’s tasks.  No matter how hard this is, you must stop doing things for other people just because it is “easier”, they won’t do it “right”, or you are just trying to “help”.  Pretending to “help” someone out by doing something for them when they are responsible for doing it is NOT helping either them or you.  The only thing you accomplish by “helping” is creating an unnecessary and unhealthy dependency which ultimately only serves to feed your ego.  Your ego likes to be “needed” because that is where you get your self-worth from but this is not healthy.  A positive self-worth comes from understanding your value in Christ not comparing your value to that of another person.

Stop comparing yourself to others.  At a much deeper level, when you take on another person’s tasks you are saying that you are better than them.  Being better or being more responsible than others sets you apart from the crowd and allows you to stand out but this is not servant leadership, rather it is self-motivated leadership.  Everyone has their own journey to follow, in their own time.  By insisting that a person be at the same level as you, you are really saying that you know better where they should be rather than allowing them to follow their own journey.   Sometimes, a person has to suffer the consequences of their own decision in order to make better decisions going forward.

Stop saving others.  There is only one Savior, Jesus Christ, and you are not it.  By focusing on other people’s issues, you steal energy away from caring for yourself and then begin to see this process as a sacrifice you make for them.  The problem is that the sacrifice has already been made in Christ and He doesn’t need you to sacrifice yourself for others.  Rather you need to offer your life as a living sacrifice to Him.  Jesus will save them.  You can pray, encourage, guide, teach, and love but you are NOT to save them.  This is why you become angry when someone does not appreciate your “help” because you are really trying to “save” them and it isn’t working.

There is a small verse in Galatians 6:5, “For we are each responsible for our own conduct”.  You are responsible for your conduct and you will receive the rewards or consequences of your behavior.  Others are responsible for their conduct and they will receive the rewards or consequences of their behavior.  Being overly responsible is not being godly; it is trying to take the place of God in the life of others.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.