We all have moments in our lives when we feel anxious, stressed out or depressed. It is a natural part of our lives, as we navigate through the ups and downs of our years. Sometimes, it is because of stress at work, or maybe social anxiety, or maybe the loss of a loved one.
Knowing how to help a friend who is experiencing these feelings can be a really useful way to support them. There are some really simple and easy ways to help your friend:
1. Listen and acknowledge
If a stressed or anxious friend knows you are there for them, sometimes that can provide them with all the support they need. Listening is different to giving advice though, so be aware that not everybody wants to receive advice, they just want to share some of their thoughts and feelings. One of the best ways to offer this, is through something called active listening.
Here are some active listening techniques:
- Though you may have an idea of what your friend is trying to explain, it is best to ask questions and allow them to explain.
- Validate their feelings. This can be as simple as saying “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.”
- Ask open questions.
- Be attentive to the replies of your friend. If you are actively listening, this will show with your body language.
Sometimes your friend may want to talk, sometimes they might not. What is important, is that you have given them the opportunity to. Having the opportunity is beneficial for anyone but specifically for those who are anxious, stressed or depressed. If they are anxious, then you have given them reassurance that you care. If they are stressed, you have given them space to get some things off their chest. If they are depressed, you have listened and acknowledged them and helped to validate their thoughts and feelings.
2. Learn about mental health yourself
It may be useful to learn about mental health yourself. Not only will this help you to support your friend, but it may also be useful to you. Recent statistics show that levels of mental health disorder diagnoses are at their highest ever. It has also been suggested that, due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, these levels may continue to increase even further.
Reading up on anxiety, stress and depression may help you to help your friend. Here are some useful links to get you started:
- National Institute of Mental Health fact sheet for Anxiety
- Pocketcoach’s Ultimate Guide to Dealing With Anxiety
- American Psychological Association information for Stress
- Pocketcoach’s Stress Reduction Strategies
- World Health Orginisation’s fact sheet for Depression
- Pocketcoach’s Morning rituals to reduce Stress & Anxiety
3. Offer ‘loose’ invitations
People who suffer from anxiety or depression sometimes have a difficult time with social events. Anxious people sometimes overthink cancelling plans, leading to more anxiety about making plans and in turn, more anxiety in general. A person suffering from depression may find it hard to reach out in the first place, and then cancelling them can contribute to feelings of guilt and then increase the likelihood of isolation.
A great way to help your friends suffering from anxiety and depression is to continue inviting them, even if you think they will decline. When you are inviting them, also letting them know there is no pressure to hang out helps to reduce the pressure on them. You can say something like “I understand you might not be able to come and you’re in a rough patch right now, but when you’re ready to hang out, you’re welcome’.
4. Offer to help with everyday tasks
Being able to offer your help with day-to-day-tasks can be very useful for people who are suffering from anxiety, stress or depression. Whether it is washing the dishes, shopping, or cleaning, sometimes the pressure of every day tasks can build up on them.
Of course, it always depends on the specific context, but helping somebody in this way may help to relieve stress, reduce anxiety and support someone with depression.
A specific example may be: you are round at your friend’s house and you notice they are behind on some chores, you could offer to help by doing it together. Having company can reduce the feelings of pressure and make the task seem less daunting.
Sometimes people who are depressed may appreciate your offer, but don’t know how to respond. So, instead of saying “Let me know if” you could change it up and say “What do you most need help with today”.
5. Be patient and try to understand
Helping a friend who is anxious, stressed or depressed may involve some patience and understanding. As with any problem, it can take time to resolve and it is less about ‘curing’ the issue than about understanding it, growing through the experience of it and gaining a healthy perspective on it.
You can help your friend in lots of different ways, but specifically:
- Provide space and support
- Don’t make judgements
- If your friend is anxious, explain the plan in advance
- Be consistent
6. Stay in contact
Communication is a vital aspect of our everyday lives that we sometimes forget about. Letting your friend know you care about them, as they continue to deal with either anxiety, stress or depression, can definitely help.
It doesn’t have to be a regular, weekly catch up. It can be a quick text, call, or visit. The main thing is to make contact and stay in contact. Some of the most common maladaptive behaviours of those who are depressed or anxious stem from avoidance, so this makes it even more important to keep in touch.
If you’re looking for more help with anxiety, stress or panic, check out Pocketcoach 🙂