Help for a loved one with symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety
How can we best support family members who have depression, stress, or anxiety symptoms?
They hopefully already receive professional help, but what can we do to make a positive difference?
I often meet these questions. I know that the family would like to help; it’s just challenging to know how.
Following are some simple but effective ideas about how you can help.
Try to understand the other. It is a bit like seeing the world through the other person’s glasses. Listen carefully and ask open questions.
For example, instead of asking:
Did you have a good day? You can ask: How was your day?
Or instead of: Did you manage to relax during the day? You can ask: What was the best part of the day for you? Or: How did you relax today?
Most importantly, be open-minded, and listen to what you are being told (please, do not reply with: I am also tired, or I also had pain,..etc.). This is not about you; this is about listening to the other intently. You hopefully will have the opportunity to also talk about your day but in another context.
Being listened to
Do not try to find solutions to the problems or challenges you hear about.
Instead, acknowledge what you are hearing and reassure the other person.
For example, I listen to what you are saying; it sounds like it is not easy right now; I am here. If you need anything, please let me know. Or: That sounds difficult; how are you feeling now?
Acknowledge every positive change you are told about. In this way, you strengthen the other person’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and you help them be aware of their inner strength and resources.
F. ex.: It sounds great that you prioritized a good rest. Well done, as I know it is not easy for you to do so.
Do activities together – for example, go for a walk together, or make supper together. It helps the other person be in the here and now and less in their own thoughts.
Lying on the couch and watching TV together is not the best choice, as it can activate worries and thoughts of not being good enough.
Also, it can be challenging to motivate themselves to do something alone but doing it together with another person feels more manageable.
Respect, appreciation, and acknowledgement help the person to feel loved and understood. Symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression are followed by low self-esteem and self-criticism. Therefore respect, appreciation, and acknowledgement make a big difference and help the healing process considerably.
For example, I really appreciate that you made the supper; I know it is not the easiest for you just now. It tastes great.
A short meeting with a professional
When possible, I suggest that my clients bring their partner in for a short talk (ca. 30 /40 min), so we meet the three of us, my client, the partner, and me. I start with explaining the situation, and afterwards, we focus on what the client needs and how the partner can be there to best help and support.
These meetings are empowering and very helpful for both parties, as they help the client receive the external support they need and the partner to understand how they can best help.
I hope you found this information useful and you have received some tools in regards to how better understand and support your loved one, in situations in which they really need it.
With best regards,
A little step can help on the path to a brighter future...
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