When the people around us are going through a tough time, it can certainly be tricky to know whether or not you’re doing the right thing. Navigating someone else’s crisis can have many pitfalls, each of which may seem natural to do, but they aren’t always actually be the best thing to do or say. Helping someone in a tough spot is nuanced process and often needs a little insight into recommended processes.
Helping someone doesn’t always mean molly coddling them.
Now let’s get one thing straight, I’m not saying “tough love”, certainly nobody benefits from being told to “toughen up”, or “man up”. To the same token, you cannot cuddle someone out of depression. It can be hard, but truly helping someone in a dark spot can take a lot of your time and attention and striking the balance is often hard.
Here are a few angles of approach that can help:
1. Silence is not golden.
It is essential that those who are in a dark space know that there is someone who loves them and wants to help them. Now, let’s clarify something, it is of the utmost importance that you balance your own happiness with your desire to help the other person out. The last thing that you want is to lose yourself in the noble venture of helping out another.
2. But remember, you won’t always get a response.
What we’re saying is that you should simply let them know that you’re there and that you care so that when they need you, they feel like they can reach out. Remember, that’s not always easy to do. Sometimes, they may not even be able to ask for help, so checking in regularly and asking them how they’re doing will make all the difference. Send them a text, or give them a call, BUT just don’t expect to always get reciprocation.
3. Don’t give unwanted advice.
Sometimes helping people doesn’t mean lecturing them on your own life-philosophy. Oftentimes, the last thing that people want is to be told about your excellent life and all the things that are working out for you. If they ask for advice, go for gold, but otherwise bear in mind they may not want it.
4. There is no simple solution.
Similarly, don’t try to give them some magic formula like “Three squats in the morning will set you right” or whatever weird trick a one-minute internet search tells you. There are no shortcuts, and they need to now that it’s going to take some resilience on their part to get through this. Keeping their motivation up in that journey is where you can help.
4. Show that you acknowledge their feelings
They may be feeling shame about their depression or anxiety and how it affects their lives. For this reason they need to know that they’re not the only people feeling that way. Show them that you can acknowledge their feelings, and guide them to counsel groups where they will realize that their feelings are valid and common. Also remember not to diminish their suffering. Don’t just tell them that they’re “sad” like everyone else.
5. Don’t patronize them.
It can be all too easy to come off as condescending when trying to talk to someone in a dark place. This can be made easier by avoiding “baby-talking” to them and speak to them clearly and “eye-to-eye”. You don’t need to mince your words or talk down to them to show compassion.
7. Get them active.
One major way to overcome the blues is to get the blood and endorphins flowing by trying to stay active. Sometimes getting someone to come along with you when they’re in a depressive state of mind can be very difficult and may need to be a gradual process. Start with walks to get some fresh air, and work your way up to longer, more extravagant activities. The change of scenery will do wonders to break cyclical thought processes.
What advice do you have for helping people in a tough place?
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