11 Ways to Support Friends with Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety, like two shadowy figures, can cast a long and chilling darkness over someone’s life. Witnessing a loved one struggle within their grip can be both heart-wrenching and frustrating. We want to reach out, but sometimes falter, unsure of how to navigate these often turbulent waters.
Remember, you are not alone in this journey. While you may not be a licensed therapist, your presence and support can hold immense power in a person’s fight against these mental health battles. Here are 11 ways you can be a lighthouse in the storm, guiding your loved one towards calmer shores:
1. Validate and Listen without Judgment: The first step is offering a safe space. Let them know you see their pain, acknowledge their struggles, and emphasize that their feelings are valid. Don’t minimize their experiences with phrases like “buck up” or “it’s not that bad.” Instead, offer a listening ear, free from judgment or unsolicited advice. Sometimes, simply knowing someone cares enough to listen can be a beacon of hope in the darkness.
2. Encourage Professional Help: While you can be a pillar of support, you cannot be a therapist. Gently encourage professional help, acknowledging that seeking therapy doesn’t equate to weakness, but rather to strength and bravery. Help them research therapists, schedule appointments, and offer to accompany them if needed. Remember, therapy is a marathon, not a sprint, so be patient and supportive throughout the process.
3. Be a Partner in Building Positive Habits: Depression and anxiety often drain motivation, making everyday tasks feel insurmountable. Offer practical help, like running errands together, preparing meals, or doing chores. Encourage healthy habits like regular exercise, proper sleep hygiene, and mindful eating. These steps, though small, can contribute significantly to their overall well-being.
4. Celebrate Small Victories: Celebrate each step, no matter how seemingly insignificant. A completed task, a day without a panic attack, a moment of laughter – these are all victories worth acknowledging. Your enthusiasm and joy can rekindle their own flame of hope and motivate them to keep moving forward.
5. Foster Connection and Avoid Isolation: Encourage social interaction, even if it feels daunting. Suggest group activities, walks in nature, or casual coffee dates. Social connection helps combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation that depression and anxiety often breed. Be their anchor, but also encourage them to build their own support network.
6. Be Mindful of Communication: Watch your words and tone. Avoid harsh criticism, negativity, or unsolicited advice. Instead, be empathetic and patient. Use “I” statements to express your concern, like “I see you’re struggling today,” instead of blaming statements like “You always do this.” Active listening, gentle encouragement, and positive affirmations can go a long way.
7. Embrace the Power of Fun and Joy: Remind them of the things they used to enjoy. Plan an activity they once loved, watch a funny movie, or listen to their favorite music. Sharing experiences of joy can be a powerful antidote to the darkness, reminding them that there is light and laughter waiting to be rediscovered.
8. Respect Boundaries and Pace: Understand that their energy levels and capacity for interaction may fluctuate. Respect their boundaries and don’t take it personally if they need space. Be flexible and supportive, offering your presence without pushing them beyond their limits.
9. Take Care of Yourself: Remember, helping someone with depression and anxiety can be emotionally draining. Make sure to prioritize your own self-care. Engage in activities that bring you joy, seek support from your own friends and family, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed. Your well-being is crucial to sustaining your ability to support them.
10. Offer Resources and Information: Arm yourself with knowledge. Learn about depression and anxiety, their symptoms, triggers, and available treatment options. Share reputable resources and information with your loved one, but remember not to force anything. Let them choose what resonates with them.
11. Be Hopeful and Patient: Recovery is a journey, not a destination. There will be good days and bad days, setbacks and progress. Be a beacon of hope, reminding them that even though the darkness may feel overwhelming, the sun will rise again. Offer unwavering support, unwavering presence, and unwavering faith in their strength and resilience.
Remember, supporting someone with depression and anxiety is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be challenges, frustrations, and moments of doubt. But within your support, within your love, and within your unwavering presence lies the power to guide them towards calmer shores. You may not be able to control the storm, but you can be the lifejacket they hold onto to weather it.
Additional Resources: Please write these down and put in your wallet/purse.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988
If you’re struggling, it’s okay to share your feelings. To start, you could copy one of these pre-written messages and send it to a trusted contact.
- Crisis Text Line: by texting HOME to 741741. The Crisis Text Line is a global nonprofit organization providing free and confidential text-based mental health support and crisis intervention. The organization launched in 2013, and its services are available 24 hours