This has been one of the toughest two days of my life. I was about to give up on almost everything I believed in. I felt no one cared about me, except maybe God and my family. However, just reading through other people’s blogs, gave me a renewed sense of purpose and passion that I hadn’t felt during that time. So, a special thank you to my blogging community to give me the strength and the drive to keep on keeping on!
Since there is much stigma and misconceptions in the general society today on what to do (and what not to do) when someone you love or care about feels depressed or anxious, here are some tips that have helped me and many people I care about who get depressed and/or anxious. (Also includes what not to do and/or say to someone who is depressed and/or anxious):
1) Validate what they are going through.– This does not mean always agreeing with them about the lifestyle choices they made or sounding like a parrot to them. That does not help them either! This does mean to listen attentively and offer compassion and love to them. For instance, if the anxious person tells you about what they really fear, instead of ridiculing them or telling them to “toughen up. It’s only_______ (fill in the blank with what they fear),” thank them for having the courage to tell you about their deepest feelings and being vulnerable, because, as I (and many others) can attest, it takes a LOT of courage to be vulnerable like that. Don’t ruin their trust in you! If they are depressed, a good thing to say to him or her is, ” Your feelings are valid. I am sorry that you are feeling that way. Know that you are not alone though. I care, and is there anything I can do to help you?” This statement does several things: a.) Shows that you care about how the person feels, not just caring about your own feelings. b.) The open-ended question lets the person know that they are allowed to make their own decision about what you can do to help them, and makes them feel less controlled and trapped in whatever situation or situations they may find themselves.
2) Make every effort to be there for them during this difficult time.—It is understandable to be busy with life’s responsibilities, and there is a certain point where it can be too much for one person to be responsible for another’s happiness and comfort. If that is the case, find several other people who can care for or talk to the depressed and/or anxious person during this time. Also, recommend and/or find a licensed counselor or therapist to help them. This way a.) The person knows that they don’t have to fight their illness alone and that several people actually care for them. b.) The responsibility of being there and helping the person does not fall on only one person, which if it were, would cause compassion fatigue. However, if that is not the case, make every effort to be there for the person suffering and to care for them, even if it is just offering a listening ear.
3) Do not tell the anxious or depressed person, to “get over it” or “toughen up”. –Many people (including myself) who struggle with depression or anxiety problems are already doing the best they can to cope with what they are dealing. Again, telling them to “toughen up” or “get over it” only invalidates what they are going through and implying that they are not trying hard enough to cope with their illness. A better thing to tell a depressed or anxious person is, “I will help you through whatever you are going through. You are not alone,” and then commit to being there for him or her.
4) If the depressed person is having suicidal thoughts, do not accuse them of being selfish or uncaring.–While that may have a grain of truth (or not), accusing the depressed person of being “selfish” or telling them to “think of others first,” does not help them at all! It actually makes the depression worse because a lot of people who are that upset or sad a.) already don’t feel good about themselves. b.) aren’t usually in the mindset where they can think about others right now. Also, someone with those kinds of thoughts often does think about others, just not in a way that makes sense to us.
5) Help them find their purpose and passion in life again.—DISCLAIMER: This may not be a viable option for everyone, but it CAN work for some people. Use your own judgment. This applies to loved ones with people who suffer from anxiety and those who suffer from depression. This can be a simple as having joy and purpose in your own life and/or caring enough to let the person who is suffering participate in the joys of your life. For instance, if you enjoy cooking for others, you can encourage the person who is suffering to participate in what you are doing. It can also be encouraging them in the positive qualities and abilities you see in them and helping them find the motivation to cultivate them again. For instance, if you see that he or she is a normally very generous person, you can encourage him or her to give away some things he/she no longer needs but that can be useful to others in need. If he or she likes to write, encourage them to cultivate that interest again. Remind them of the positive impact they already have on others, and encourage them not to give up.
6) If they are anxious, help them gradually overcome their fears.—For instance, if the anxious person is afraid of socializing because they fear what people may think of them, encourage them to meet one trustworthy person. If they do well in that situation, bring several people to hang out with them. Then, take them to a restaurant or some other venue with more people. However, don’t rush them into interacting. Do it slowly.–This may take a few months or even years to accomplish. Be patient with them, and reassure them (with both your words and actions) that they can trust you.
7.) If you are religious or spiritual, pray for them.–I personally believe in the power of prayer. If you do too, I would suggest fervently and regularly praying for the depressed or anxious people in your life. Pray that they will be surrounded by people who care about and love them genuinely. Pray that they will find joy and hope in their lives again, and not be riddled with anxiety, depression, anger, and/or hurt. Pray that they will be delivered from their illness and find wholeness again.
What do you suggest in helping encourage an anxious or depressed person? What do you suggest we not do? Why? Please feel free to comment below. Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments, or they will not be approved. Thank you.