How Can Showing Empathy for Others Help Your Own Mental Health?

‘When I care and show empathy for others, I feel better myself’.

Does the above statement seem true to you?

I will be honest, 10 or so years ago I would have read that statement and most likely said yes on a surface level but in reality I would be thinking something like;

‘Oh, come on… really? Yes, it is nice to do things to help and support others, but is it really going to help me in any way?’

The thing is- I found this to be absolutely true, through my own personal battle with Mental Health.

Back in 2015 I felt disconnected from life. I was silently suffering with anxiety and depression whilst trying to hold down a high-pressure job in the corporate world. I had spent the last 15 years working very hard, building multiple businesses and always striving for more.

On the surface I was fine. I had become an expert at coping and covering up how I was really feeling – at putting on a mask, but behind the mask, I was afraid.

Afraid of not being in control of my feelings.

Afraid that my colleagues would judge me if they found out just how much I was struggling.

Afraid of what people might say if I opened up.

Afraid of letting EVERYONE down (I had SO much responsibility both at work and at home).

I tried to convince myself that my fears were not important and that I should ‘power through’. That it would all be ok, when I hit THIS target, or achieved THAT deadline, or made my husband’s birthday the most amazing day ever, or give my children the best holiday they had ever had…

Day in day out I picked myself up, brushed myself off and carried on.

The trouble is it got worse, much worse!

One day I got home from work and physically collapsed into a heap on the kitchen floor. I was finished. My family saw me at my very lowest point – and I felt like I had nothing else left to give.

It was time to walk away from my career, for the time being; and start putting my life back together slowly, piece by piece, one step at a time.

I had had a breakdown.

One of the things that really struck me when going through my own personal battle with Mental Health, was just how much I wanted to use my experience positively to help others find hope- and to recover themselves.

With the help and support of my friends and family it took me over a year to get back onto my feet and within that time (even though I knew I wasn’t 100 percent myself) I decided to start training as a volunteer listener for the Samaritans.

The training was extensive and took a serious commitment. I learned so much and even though I doubted myself at times (and whether it was the right thing for me to do in my situation) I stuck at it.

It turned out that it was exactly the right thing for me to do (and the right thing for all the people I have supported ever since).

I remember my first shift as a listening volunteer. I was able to put my own thoughts and feelings to one side and completely immerse myself in the act of listening non-judgmentally to another human being.

I had a taste of being truly selfless – being of service to others with no requirement for anything in return. And I learned that when I gave unconditional love, support and empathy to another, I also felt better myself.

Looking back, it makes so much sense to me now. As human beings we are built for connection to others- we are hard-wired to seek out connection; and to help & support one another.

In my own life, being able to give love, support and show empathy for others selflessly has been an integral part of my recovery.

So here it is;

I promise that when you show empathy to another person (despite what you are going through yourself right now) they will feel connection- they will feel listened to, loved and cared for. When you support another human being and put your own thoughts, feelings and problems aside (even just for a moment), I believe miracles can happen.

…and just imagine for a moment that you are on the receiving end of the kind of love and support I am talking about.

For me, knowing that people care and that they are there for me makes every single second of life worth living.

Love Claire x

PS This article was inspired by one of my recent Facebook live videos titled ‘How Can Showing Empathy for Others Help Your Own Mental Health?’

If you would like to see more of my videos then let me know in the comments below and I will get back to you.

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