We all love hanging out with our mates – it’s part of being a functioning human. Or at the very least, a social human (if your pile of dirty dishes and dumpling addiction makes you question your functioning status). But sometimes they can get to be… well, just a bit much.

I pride myself on being a pretty resilient person and I do my best to be there for my friends whenever they need me, but recently I’ve noticed that without even realising it, I was expending too much energy on some particular mates and not taking care of myself.

You still care a lot about this person (otherwise you wouldn’t have bothered with giving them so much attention in the first place, obvs). So you wanna make sure that when you deal with the situation, you do it tactfully and in a way that helps them understand that you’re not just being an unsupportive butthead.

Here are a few pointers to ensure you don’t lose a mate in the process.

Communicate clearly

It’s a tricky situation to deal with because you’ve probs been giving this person all your time and energy for quite some time for it to have gotten to this point, so pulling back from them can seem like you’re being abrupt, blunt or unfeeling – and that’s simply not the case. Situations like this can put people on the defensive REAL quick, so you’re going to have to employ every last inch of your tact to keep it all above board.

So no, this does not mean you can ghost your friend. Ghosting is a dodgy move no matter the situation. It can be okay to go from 100 to 0 if you need to, but for someone on the outside not knowing what is going on, the change of pace can be jarring if you aren’t clear.

All it takes is a simple, “Hey, I feel that I need to take a bit of time for me at the moment. I want to help you, but I think the best way I can do that is by taking care of myself first.”

it’s genuinely as simple as that

Manage expectations

When someone has come to rely on another as an emotional crutch, it can be pretty tough to break the habit of constantly reaching out to them. Your mate might struggle with this if you don’t clearly outline not only what you expect from them, but what they can expect from you.

Say for instance, if you still want to be able to hang out occasionally but can’t handle the late night phone calls or constant messages peppered throughout your work day. Tell your friend that you really need your work time to focus, and that you’re trying to get a regular sleeping pattern so you’d rather they didn’t contact you in those hours.

If you’re totally burnt out from the friendship, tell them you’ll get in touch when you’re emotionally ready to reconnect – it doesn’t have to be the end of the friendship, you may just need time. Don’t just cut things off unless you’re 100% sure that’s what you want.

same though

Take the space you need and use it wisely

The important thing about taking space is sticking to it – you will probably feel guilty, especially if they continue to message you or try to get in contact. But you’re doing this because you’re not physically or emotionally able to give them the attention, and they won’t learn to understand how that affects your mental health unless you’re firm.

And while you’re doing so, get yourself back to a condition where you feel a bit more whole. You’ve been expending a lot of time and energy on everyone except yourself, so now is the time to really focus on yourself.

Sleep in, take baths, listen to music, play video games – whatever gets you in your happy place. It could be as simple as turning your phone off for a few hours and not having to deal with the rest of the world. Honestly, bliss.

if only

Remember that prioritising yourself isn’t a bad thing

This lesson took me a really long time to learn. I’d constantly be spreading myself thin trying to balance work, social pressures and my own life, and it wound up meaning I’d run on less than three or four hours sleep – and still not have time for basic self care.

I’d feel guilty when I had to say no, or pull out of something, thinking that it made me a flake. It didn’t, but there was no convincing me. Until someone sat me down and told me I needed to take a step back because it was starting to affect my health and work.

Now, I’ve come to terms with taking time for myself – and the friends that I have know that if I don’t reply straight away or need to have a bit of space, that’s not me blanking them or ghosting, that’s just my way of self care. And that is OKAY.

my friends @ me

Taking time for yourself is important at the best of times, but not letting someone take over your wellbeing is just as important – if not more so when the two are compounded together.

Set boundaries for what you can and can’t do and you’ll find that your relationships will grow stronger for it in the end. And if you find that you need a little extra support, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to a professional.

There’s no shame in seeking help – try headspace if you’re in need of a friendly, supportive voice.

If you or someone else needs support in a crisis situation please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the police on 000 for emergency support.

Image: iStock / MangoStar_Studio