5 tips for helping a friend going through a hard time
Reaching out to a friend or a loved one going through a hard time can be challenging. Your mental health companion Nuna has 5 tips on how to support a friend in the time of hardship.
by Benedicte Nellemann Dittmer
We'll all experience times in our lives when things aren't going our way. And whether we're dealing with mental issues such as depression, anxiety, or stress or maybe going through life-changing events such as divorce, illness, or grief, we'll need someone there with us.
Research truly backs the importance of friendships. Secor et al. found that when faced with negative life events, the social support of our friends can have a great impact on our psychological well-being. And in this cross-cultural study by Lu et al., valuing friendships was generally associated with better health, well-being, and happiness.
But as a friend, it can be hard to figure out how to support a loved one who might be in a bad place. What if the things we say just sound stupid or aren’t helpful at all?
The truth is that it really isn’t important what we say, but the fact that we show we care and want to support them. No words are going to make everything okay, but letting our friends know that we are there by their side might make the journey a bit easier.
Five tips for helping a friend going through a hard time
1. Reach out and be resilient
Showing someone that you are truly there means reaching out and asking about how they feel. And then reaching out again. And maybe just once more. Of course, we shouldn’t force someone to talk to us and we need to respect the fact that they might want time to themselves — but showing the people around us that their problems aren’t inconvenient to us is important?
2. Be careful with problem-solving
It can be very tempting to find a solution to people’s problems when they're struggling and we want to help them. But let’s be honest, this doesn’t always feel very helpful. Listening, validating, and asking questions can go a long way when helping a good friend.
And if you’re not sure what your friend needs, then don’t be afraid to ask. E.g. "How can I best support you?" or "Do you want to talk about this?"
If you find it hard to let go of the need to solve your friend's problems, it might be an idea to practice acceptance.
3. Deep talks or memes?
Deep talks can be very helpful, but they might be too overwhelming for some. So if you feel like your friend or yourself aren’t in the right headspace for that, try to find other ways to be available? If you come across a meme or a song that makes you think of them, send it to them. Or, if you’re going for a walk, invite your friend along! Don’t be sad if they don’t answer, the important thing is that they see you’re thinking of them.
4. Physical touch
A good hug can be exactly what you need when you’re feeling down. But not everyone feels comfortable with physical touch. Remember your friend’s boundaries, even when comforting.
5. Final note: Remember your own boundaries
It is vital to support our nearest and dearest. But, it can also be very energy consuming, and here it is important to put your own health first. It is alright to take a step back and tell the people around you that you need some time to yourself.