It’s no secret that stress levels are rising, and the pandemic has been a major challenge for many. On top of the usual strains and pressures brought about by everyday life, people have been forced to deal with losing income, closing down businesses, being separated from family and friends and finding ways to cope when access to health services and support programs may have been limited. We all go through difficult times, and often, our friends play an integral role in getting us through. If you have loved ones in need, here are some tips to help.
One of the most valuable things you can do when a friend is struggling is to listen. When we talk about communication, we tend to focus on speaking, but listening is usually the most crucial element of the discussion. If you have encouraged a friend to open up to you, listen to what they are saying, allow them time and space to speak at their own pace and let them know that you are there for them whenever they need you.
Encourage conversation when they are ready
Talking can be hugely beneficial if you’re going through a tough time, or you have things on your mind, but it’s not always easy to be open and honest with friends and family. Reassure your friend, let them know that you’re willing to listen to them when they want to chat and don’t apply pressure. It’s important that people are able to talk when they are ready, rather than when you are ready to listen. From addiction and dealing with financial pressures to relationship breakdowns, speaking aloud can make issues more real, and it can trigger a wave of different emotions. It’s critical that you don’t push your loved one to open up if they don’t want to.
One of the main reasons people don’t feel comfortable talking about their feelings and issues that are stressing them out or getting them down is a fear of judgment. It’s common to feel embarrassed or ashamed about going through a rough patch, especially in cases where addiction is involved or people have debt problems or mental health issues. If you are engaging in conversation with a friend who is opening up to you, don’t judge them. Let them speak, listen to what they have to say and reassure and support them. There is a stigma attached to mental illness and addiction and it’s important to try to work together to identify solutions. Providing emotional support for alcoholics should involve talking, working on strategies together, trying to identify and address triggers and moving forwards at a slow, steady pace. It shouldn’t be about raiding cupboards, demanding to know how much somebody is drinking or nagging.
Help them to get help
Asking for help is often the most difficult step to take. It’s not always easy to admit that you need help, and many people are too ashamed or embarrassed to reach out. As a friend, be there to help your loved one get the help and support they need. Research programs, treatments and therapies that could benefit them, schedule appointments with health professionals and offer to go with them if they’re going to counseling or a consultation with a doctor for the first time. Even if you wait outside, it can be comforting to know that you are there. If you have a friend who isn’t quite ready to accept help yet, try to start with small steps. You could provide them with a charity helpline to call or encourage them to join social media groups so that they can talk to people who have been or are in a similar situation.
When life gets tough, it’s common to put your health and wellbeing on the backburner. If you’re supporting a friend, try to encourage and promote self-care. Help them with healthy eating, try to exercise regularly, for example, taking a walk in the fresh air daily, set aside time for relaxation and organize social plans if they feel up to it. It can be uplifting to have dates in the diary and something to look forward to.
Life is often full of ups and downs. When times are tough, we need our friends and family. If you have a loved one who is struggling, there are several steps you can take to provide help, support and advice. Listen to them, make time to talk, reassure them that you’re there to help and not to judge and encourage them to reach out and ask for help. Look after them and try to help them to stay positive.