Escort Missions IRL: How to look after yourself while looking after someone else

Have you ever played a game where you’ve gotta take care of yourself and an NPC? Have you ever had to step up and be the rock, the support, the voice of calm and reason? Did you ever feel like you weren’t equipped for that? Have you ever helped others so much you’ve run yourself into the ground? We’re talking today about how to be there for others while keeping an eye on your own mental, emotional and physical health.

Leon protecting Ashley - Resident Evil
In Resident Evil 4, Leon had to keep himself and Ashely alive

Leon from Resident Evil 4 has to protect Ashely. He’s there to save her, but she can chip in a little support for him too. However, he is still the protector in that situation. And it’s not easy. He has to keep himself alive among the monsters of the world, while also keeping a look out for her. If they’re both in trouble does he suffer to protect her? If he does that too much, he’ll be done for and there’ll be nobody to protect her any more. It’s a balancing act.

Levels featuring an NPC to protect are called escort missions and they can be some of the most frustrating to play. Usually because the NPC is buggy, can’t find its way through doors, doesn’t hide under cover when there’s danger, and so on. Hopefully whoever you’re helping in real life is more sensible than this and able to look after themselves for the most part, just needing your help in a specific area they’re struggling to deal with.

Sometimes you’re worried or stressed about something but a friend, colleague or partner is even more worried or stressed about the same thing. So you step up. You put your emotions aside to help them deal with theirs. It’s a good and noble thing to do. You just need to be aware that you have needs too.

You know those people who are always the helper?

They seem to always have someone or something to worry about, never taking the time they need (or deserve) for themselves. And what happens when they do take a day off to relax? It all hits them. Everything they’ve been holding at bay while running around after others. The emotional dam bursts. Illness can even dig its hooks in – like when a busy worker holds off a cold for a few weeks then is sick all holidays.

So we need to take time and care for ourselves.

Sometimes we just need to let our friend or partner or whoever we’re helping know that this is a stressful time or a worrying situation for us, too. Sometimes that’s enough for them to be the rock for a little while – which can even help them deal with their own emotions by giving them a goal or a change of perspective. You can help each other.

Elizabeth throws some money
In Bioshock Infinite, Elizabeth finds money and ammo to help you out. She’s supporting you while you’re helping her.

Often, though, the person we’re helping can’t be the one who helps us. So you need to reach outside the situation to someone else in your network, or even a professional counselor.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to check your mental, emotional, physical health:

  1. How am I really feeling?
  2. Am I getting enough support?
  3. Am I neglecting my health?

1. How am I really feeling?

You can put on a brave face and feel brave. It can make you feel better, but it can also hide your feelings from others and even yourself.

If you’re in a situation where you’re helping others and you’re in the same boat as them, take some time in quiet and in private to look inside. Let yourself forget about the other person’s needs for a moment and get in touch with your real emotions.

Sometimes you’ll find that you’re actually feeling pretty good, and the brave face you’ve been wearing and wise words you’ve been spouting have had a positive effect on you, as well as the person you’re helping. That’s great!

Other times you’ll suddenly start crying, or get really mad, or terrified – or just super tired. You are finally letting your emotions come to the surface and be released. It’s better to do it now on your own terms than have them wildly unleashed when you’re not expecting it. It’s good to cry, good to let these things out. Let it happen. You’ll feel better afterwards.

How are you really feeling?
You might have lots of feelings. Take the time for them.

Sometimes the brave face and wise words will make you feel better, and you won’t have any need to let emotions out right now. Cool. You need to be aware, though, that if you’ve never let those emotions out during this whole situation, you could be bottling them up without knowing it. You may not have giving yourself a chance to really deal with this yet.

So, do. Every so often, retreat to the quiet and check in with yourself. You might keep finding that you’re all good. That’s fantastic. You might find you’re all good the first four times, but on the fifth it’s all gotten too much and you need to let it out. That’s fantastic, too.

Just be aware and let yourself have the time you need.

2. Am I getting enough support?

If you’re the constant support, who’s supporting you?

If you’re able to be the rock most of the time, then have the other person be your rock, that’s great. If you can both come together in whatever emotions you’re going through and both feel those emotions and support each other through that at once, that’s great too.

If you can’t, though – and that’s fine – then you may need to seek other help.

It could just be a coffee or a beer with a friend to unwind and vent. That can make you feel a lot better. They may not even need to say anything.

It may be more than that. You might need to see a counselor. Awesome! That can be really helpful and you might find it’s just what you needed.

Talking to some one can recharge your battery and get you back in the saddle ready to keep supporting and helping. Check in with your own support person again when you need to – and feel free to vary up support people too.

3. Am I neglecting my health?

Supporting someone can be mentally, emotionally and physically draining. It can take a lot of time, too, and put your schedule out of whack.

Have you missed your normal exercise time because of it? Did you take a super long lunch to listen to them so now you have to stay at work late? Are you stress eating or grabbing fast food because it’s easier and you’re strapped for time or too tired to cook? Did it just wear on you, even though you were – and still are – perfectly happy to help?

All these things and more can happen. It erodes your health and you’ve gotta look into it.

Being aware of what’s happening is the biggest help you can give yourself.

Knowing you missed the gym and making up for it the next day, is fine. Missing it all week because of a friend’s crisis can wear you down enough that you’re in no position to help them any longer. Same as having to work late all week to make up for it. It can wear you down so much that you’re more snippy or less clear headed – and more emotional – so less equipped to help or support others.

Be aware of it and take care of yourself.

Remember to take care of your own health.

Take the time to make up for what you missed out on. If you can, tell your friend you’ll be happy to help them after the gym. Or invite them along if that works for you. Or let them know you only can spare an hour for lunch, listen to them with genuine heartfelt engagement, and remind them once you’re 45 minutes in. Then around hour, tell them you need to go, you hope it helped and you can talk again soon.

They should understand that while they are in crisis, you’ve got a life and needs too.

It’ll also give them time to think and reflect on what you’ve talked about. Sometimes we can get stuck in a spiral and if our support person doesn’t cut us off, we could talk all day and night but never get anyway, and even work ourselves into an even worse state – all the while wearing out our support person so much that they can’t help us later when we really need it.

So, think about keeping a limit on or boundaries around each session. If that works for you, you’ll both be happier and more able to support yourselves and each other.

Final Note

All of this advice, of course, depends on the nature of the support and the crisis or problem you’re helping with. Use common sense, chat to others, let your feelings be known – to yourself as well as those you’re helping.

And if the situation is one that effects you as much as it does them – you’re just more equipped to deal with it or you react differently – know that it’s okay to not be a solid unshakable rock for the entire time.

Be mindful of your own mind, emotions and body.

Get the help you need, so you can give them the help they need.

Open Chat

  • What are your favourite techniques for keeping your health in check?
  • When have you drained your batteries helping someone and only realised after crashing?
  • What’s a time when someone helped you and you were able to share the load and help them too?


When Jarrod's not writing about personal development through pop-culture, he's helping people like you reach their goals through fun, empowering coaching.

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