Helping the Helper

By UB Therapist Andrea Watkins, LCSW

You are a great friend.

You’re always there for that one friend who inevitably has drama and needs a shoulder to cry on. But when you need someone to lend an ear, that friend is conveniently unavailable. You’re the caregiver son or daughter. You’ve been there for your parents as they transition through selling their home into the assisted living realm. But when you want someone to take care of you, even if it’s just to have a break from mowing the lawn, you can’t find anyone to help. You’re the best advice giver and people tend to pour out their problems to you. But you have the hardest time taking your own good advice.

Sound familiar?

You’re the helper! But what happens when the helper needs help? Personally and professionally, I know being the helper can be both rewarding and tiring. It feels nice to be there for others, but you also need to remember that you have to take care of yourself! “Burnout” is the term we will use for someone who has had prolonged exposure to stress that can lead to emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. You may feel overwhelmed, zapped of energy, having feelings of hopelessness and maybe even wanting to give up. You may feel under appreciated, feeling more resentful or cynical and, at times, may start to be one numb from all emotions, daily tasks, even caring for yourself. If you notice these red flags starting to wave around, you might be dealing with burnout. For more in depth info about burnout, click here.

Here are some ways to prevent and manage burnout in your life:

1. Have a relaxing morning ritual. Instead of jumping out of bed, spend 10-15 minutes meditating, practicing breathing exercises, read, write in a journal or drink some tea.
2. Learn how to say “no” or “yes” more. No to extra tasks that will clutter up your day- Yes for help here and there! It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to say no once in a while. It’s not okay to constantly overextend yourself.
3. Have a transition period after work and before home. Before you dive into homework, walk into a home of arguing children, or simply unwinding from a stressful commute home, try something short and simple to “end” your day, such as putting on your pajamas and putting away your work clothes or taking a 20 minute walk outside.
4. Adopt a healthy eat, sleep, workout routine. More and more studies show the importance of a blanched diet, regular exercise and a decent amount of sleep can decrease stress, physical ailments and mental health issues.
5. Take a daily break from technology. As great as technology is, it also can lead to more stress because we are always “on-call.” Find time each day to completely disconnect, like during your lunch break or right before bed.
6. Find your creative side. Art, music, dance, writing are all wonderful outlets to express yourself and also de clutter your thoughts. Bring back one of your hobbies or start a fun craft project, but make sure this activity is not related to any stressors in your life.
7. Learn how to manage your stress better. Stress is the major culprit of burnout and this heeds to be managed before you start feeling helpless/hopeless. Click here for quick and easy ways to de-stress.
Andrea Watkins is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in therapy with children (as young as 6 years old) and adolescents in individual and family settings with such topics of school-related stress, self-esteem issues, self-injury, GBLTQ needs, mood and anxiety disorders. Andrea also works with adults struggling with mood and anxiety disorders, stress management, parenting issues and relationship/family problems.


Smith, M., Segal, J., Segal, R. Feb 2015. Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Coping Strategies. Retrieved from
Mathieu, F. Mar 2007. “Transforming Compassion Fatigue into Compassion Satisfaction: Top 12 Self-Care Tips for Helpers. Retrieved from


On July 30th, our current electronic health system will transition to a new and advanced system to better serve you: Athena. Prior to the transition date, you will be sent a registration link to create a new patient account in Athena. If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your therapist, or call our office to speak to a staff member.