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Ever heard phrases like “You always know what to say” or “Thanks for always being there for me”? If you’re the designated “strong one” in your friend group, you’ve likely received these affirmations. While these relationships should ideally be reciprocal, many of us, as the reliable pillar, find ourselves in situations where others gladly take from our cup without replenishing it. As strong friends, who do we run to when we need support? Cue The Jones Girls.

For the strong friend, the weight of being that pillar of strength for others can often overshadow the need for self-care. This is especially true for Black individuals, and Black women and femmes in particular, who face disproportionate levels of stress in a world marked by systemic inequalities. Statistics reveal a stark reality: Black folks face a disproportionate amount of stress compared to their white counterparts. According to the American Psychological Association, systemic racism, discrimination, and historical trauma contribute significantly to the heightened stress levels within the Black community. For instance, Black adults are more likely to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress than our white counterparts.

Black women, in particular, face a unique intersectionality of challenges. Studies have reported that Black women are more likely to experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than white women. The weight of systemic inequalities, racial and gender discrimination, and the expectation to be the “strong Black woman” can take a toll on mental health. Additionally, people within the LGBTQ+ community face an elevated risk of mental health challenges due to factors like systemic barriers, stigmas, and limited access to resources; so for those identifying with both the Black and queer communities, the susceptibility to mental health issues is even higher.

In a world where the strong friend often bears the brunt of others’ burdens, self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. By making time for self-care, setting healthy boundaries, and prioritizing personal needs, the strong friend can maintain resilience and mental well-being. Recognize that self-care is not selfish; it’s an act of self-preservation and a revolutionary act of resistance against a world that often overlooks the unique challenges faced by Black people. In nurturing your own well-being, you empower yourself to continue being a source of strength for others.

Below are some ways you can pour back into yourself and keep your batteries charged.

Making Time for Self-Care

Acknowledge the Need for Self-Care

The first step is recognizing that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity, especially when confronted with the additional stressors that come with being a strong friend. Understand that prioritizing your mental well-being is an essential part of resilience.

Schedule “Me Time”

Just as important appointments find their place on your calendar, so should self-care. Dedicate specific times to activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s reading a book, practicing yoga, or enjoying a quiet moment.

Utilize Mental Health Resources

Seek out mental health resources. Many organizations provide culturally competent mental health services, creating a safe space for individuals to address their unique challenges.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Learn to Say “No”

As a strong friend, the impulse to be there for everyone can be overwhelming. It’s crucial to recognize that it’s okay to say no when you need to. Setting boundaries protects your mental well-being and allows you to provide genuine support without sacrificing your own needs.

Communicate Openly

Share your boundaries with friends and family. Let them know when you need time for self-care and encourage open communication about your emotional capacity. This transparency fosters understanding and helps build stronger, healthier relationships.

Prioritize Your Needs

Understand that your well-being is paramount. While supporting others is important, neglecting your own needs can lead to burnout. Prioritize self-care without guilt, recognizing that by nurturing yourself, you enhance your ability to be present for others.

Not Placing Others’ Needs Before Your Own

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your own struggles and challenges. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you offer others.

Delegate and Collaborate

Recognize that you don’t have to carry the weight alone. Delegate responsibilities when possible, and lean on your support network. Collaborative efforts can alleviate the burden and create a sense of community.

Get Professional Support

If you have access, seeking therapy or counseling can be a powerful act of self-care. A mental health professional can provide guidance and offer tools to cope with stress and build resilience.

Steph R. Long is a Chopra-certified health and meditation instructor, founder of holistic wellness and coaching company SRL Well-Being, and the former Deputy Director of Enterprise for Refinery29 Unbothered. As a queer Black wellness practitioner who strives toward inclusivity, Steph centers BIPOC and QTBIPOC, who are often underserved by the wellness industry. Her commitment is to help everyone rediscover their inner wisdom, empowering each of her clients to cultivate self-awareness and lead vibrant, purposeful lives.


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Quick Guide To Self-Care For The ‘Strong One’ In The Friend Group  was originally published on