My last post focused on how valid and acceptable it is to put yourself first and to cancel plans if you need to. Self-care is vital. This time I want to focus on cancelled plans from the perspective of a loved one.
If you have a loved one with mental illness (or even without) and they cancel plans or say no to being social, you may completely understand and want to say something that lets them know that you ‘get it’. You might want to help, but be worried about saying the wrong thing. Here are 5 simple, helpful things you could say in response:
1. “I completely understand, no problem at all.”
It really is that simple: just emphasising that you understand and that it’s not a problem can alleviate guilt your loved one might be holding at saying no to socializing. This can allow them to focus completely on their self-care without worrying about you being upset about them cancelling plans.
2. “Do you want to talk about anything?”
If you’re worried (which is understandable), you could simply as if there’s anything they want to talk about. If they say no, just let them know you’re there if they change their mind. Remember not to push them to talk or to spend time with you: it’s hard to set boundaries and you must respect they know what’s best for them.
3. “Is there a way I could adjust plans to make you more comfortable?”
You could offer to adjust your plans to make them feel more comfortable joining in. However, if they still say no thank you to your suggestion, don’t continue pushing.
4. “I’m always here for you.”
Sometimes letting your loved one know that you are there for them can mean so much. Just that simple phrase is often enough and can encourage them to open up if they need to.
5. “I’ll miss you but self-care always comes first.”
Sometimes when people say something like “Aw, I’ll miss you,” or “Oh no, what a shame”, it can make you feel bad about saying no, even if they don’t mean to make you feel guilty. Following up a phrase like “I’ll miss you”, with, “but I completely understand” or “self-care comes first”, lets you express that you care and are sad they can’t come, but reinforces that you don’t want them to feel guilty and that you understand.
Fundamentally, it’s important to remember that your loved one might feel worried about saying no. They might feel pressured to join in, even if they need time to themselves. They might feel worried about how you feel or feel guilty for setting a boundary. How you respond can make a big difference and allow them to fully dedicate themselves to the self-care time they need.