We all have called a friend to vent for one reason or another. But there comes a point when one should be able to assess the “mess” she is dealing with on her own and handle it accordingly. You shouldn’t always be the friend who is calling for help. Like Miki Howard once sang, experience is a good teacher.  At some point, you should be the friend who has wisdom to lend, rather than the one panicking on the other end of the phone.

In order to do that, you have to evaluate situations and ask yourself, “How did I contribute to this mess?” Some things in life are absolutely inevitable. For example, it’s one thing to expect a single birth and later find out that you’ll have to prepare for twins. On the other hand, it would totally be your bad judgement to start planning for a family without any source of income.

We all know a few people who make fly-by-night decisions like this. It could be a cousin, co-worker, or a friend who’s been making bad decisions since high school. You’re flattered and humbled that this lost soul confides in you and seeks your advice, but you wonder when the heck is she going to realize that she is the sole reason her world is a ball of confusion.

The truth is you cannot save a person who regularly self-sabotages. That type of behavior is a personal choice that your loved one consciously, or unconsciously makes. And if you’re a good friend you’ll alert them to that behavior and not sabotage your own self, letting them drain you of all of your energy and piece of mind.

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At first, you may feel like you have abandoned your friend in her time of need, but you have to protect you first. In fact, professionals such as teachers and therapists say that when the work day is over, they like to relax and unplug from the world because if they don’t, their students and clients’ problems will linger on their minds.

Here are a few ways you can help a friend from a distance without compromising the relationship or your mental health:

  1. Suggest she write her issue down and make it plain. Keeping a journal is a great way to express what you are dealing with. You are likely to re-read what you wrote and really process what your thoughts and feelings are about a particular issue. There are some friends who simply want to get their drama out—they’re not looking for your opinion or advice to fix it. Journaling allows them to do that without burdening you or their social media followers.
  2.  Encourage your friend to have a spiritual life: You can’t catch a break if you’re always talking about doom and gloom. Suggest she pray more, engage in a spiritual practice like meditation or yoga, and take time to be thankful for what is going right in her life.
  3.  Keep it real and keep it moving: People can sometimes take “you only live once” a bit too far. It’s okay to spend your tax refund on a cruise to the Caribbean. It’s not okay to have unprotected sex with the person you literally just met last night. Remind your friend that she is free to choose what she does, but the consequences of her choice are your not your burden to bear. You don’t have to attend every circus she invites you to.
  4.  Refer her to a mental health professional. There are some things only Dr. Phil can fix. Your friend’s drama may stem from a family history of mental health issues, drug abuse, or even an abusive relationship. True, all these things require support from a good girlfriend, but they can only be resolved with professional health and her commitment to seek this help.
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