Usually when we’re wading our way through something so draining and life changing, there’s someone we can turn to for a pep talk, a vent or a big cry. What’s tricky though is that at least some of your support network is also likely to be experiencing the same struggles as you right now.

A lot of the time it can feel comforting, recognising that we are working together against a common enemy. Other days though, knowing we’re all in this together is part of what makes life feel so heavy.

Here are some thoughts on why this might be:

  • As a society we don’t have the same energy levels and resources that we normally would to support other people. Taking care of ourselves and our families is harder than usual, so there just isn’t a lot left over.
  • At times when you’re feeling depleted, alone or in need of support, you might find yourself feeling reluctant to be reach out or be open. This might be because you’re conscious that those around you have their own struggles, so you end up holding back.
  • At times when you’re feeling clear headed and energised, you might not want to risk reaching out in case the other person’s headspace somehow negatively impacts yours.
  • When you connect with people outside of the restriction bubble you might feel hopeful and freed up hearing about “normal life” outside of COVID. But you might also feel frustrated and trapped by reminders of what you can’t do right now and what you’ve lost.

Of course none of this is meant to suggest that we shouldn’t reach out to each other for support. Connection is important now more than ever.

It can help though to acknowledge that right now supporting each other is not always straight forward. Recognising this can help us all to lower our expectations of ourselves and of others. If you find yourself feeling irritable, disconnected, awkward or anxious when giving or receiving support, that’s normal. If you have to gear yourself up to support others or to reach out for support, that’s normal too.

So practically speaking, what might it look like to lower your expectations around giving and receiving support?

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Texting instead of calling
  • Getting back to people when you feel ready instead of when you feel you “should”
  • Sending photos instead of texts
  • Tagging friends in things that might express how you feel or that might support them in some way, but taking the pressure off to say anything extra
  • Sending a card or a letter in the mail
  • Scheduling in a call with a friend as a way to try to keep each other accountable. Or, if that makes you feel hemmed in, do the opposite and just reach out when you feel like it
  • If you’re on a call or a Zoom chat and you realise it’s just not what you need right now, give yourself permission to wrap it up early
  • If you need support, but don’t feel up to reaching out to someone you know, give Beyond Blue a call on 1800 512 348. Their trained counsellors are available as a listening ear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you’re someone who puts other people’s needs ahead of your own or you find it tricky to reach out for support, these suggestions might be easier said than done of course. You need to find your own way to lessen the pressure. The bottom line is though, giving and receiving support is harder than normal at the moment, so if you can, give yourself a break and aim for connection not perfection.