What can I say or do? Supporting a loved one through their struggles.

What can I say or do? How to support a loved one through their struggle

One of the most rewarding feelings is when someone you care about feels comfortable enough to trust you about their struggles. While our intentions are pure, there are times when we are unsure of how to support our loved ones, or maybe what we categorize as support does the opposite and pushes them away. It’s not that we don’t want to help them; it’s just that we don’t know the how’s of approaching them. This can result in saying the wrong thing, undermining their experience, dismissing their feelings, changing focus to yourself and or avoiding them. Here are a few tips that I have learnt from my personal experience as a volunteer support worker and a counselling psychology student.

Tip 1: Active Listening

Sometimes your friend will come to you with a problem they are facing, and they may seem worried or

Stressed. This does not necessarily mean that they aren’t searching for solutions, but they might just be seeking a safe space to let out their emotions. Instead of being focused on how to “fix” the issue, focus on hearing what they are saying. Being a shoulder to lean on may seem small, but it is one of the best things you can do for someone you love.

Tip 2: Let them disclose as little or as much as they want

When we are trying to be helpers, we want to know as much as we can about the situation. Sometimes this curiosity can turn into pressure. Have the person lead the conversation and follow their pace. It takes a lot of courage for one to be vulnerable. You might be the first person they are talking to about this situation. Be patient and allow them to open up to you depending on their comfort level.

You can ask,

What would you like from me right now?

Is there anything I can do to help you? We can do it together.

Tip 3: Create a distraction-free environment

Show your loved ones that you truly value their courage to open up to you by making sure you are giving them quality time in a zone without any distractions. This could be as simple as putting your phone away when talking or taking them to a quiet room. Having no distractions plays into active listening which was mentioned in Tip 1. This will allow you two to connect more and for the person to feel safe.

Tip 4: Don’t try to diagnose or assume anything

I’m sure we have all Googled our symptoms for physical symptoms we were experiencing. While the internet is full of valuable resources, it is not a medical professional. Google can be amazing to learn more about mental health, but it should not be used as a diagnostic criterion. Although it is generous for you to support your loved one, stray away from coming to any conclusions about their situation. If you ever fear for the safety of your loved one, you can always find numbers to certain hotlines that can connect you with professionals.

Tip 5: It’s okay to not know what to do

Offering support is not always easy and that’s okay. Helping someone is rewarding but that doesn’t mean you should neglect how you’re feeling. It is important that you take care of yourself. Remember to take time to process anything that’s been said to you. Even counsellors need to take time for themselves to make sure that they see better able to help others. If you ever feel overwhelmed, you can offer support by connecting them to a professional or helping them find another strong support group.

Tip 6: Don’t make it about you

It’s a common practice to shift the attention to your experience, instead of keeping the focus on your friend. We all have similar experiences and stories, but it’s important to realize that your loved one is asking you to hold their pain with them, not silence it and make it about you. While you may be trying to connect with them, it’s better to let them know that you understand and are with them through this time.

Take home message

It can be difficult seeing your loved ones struggle so giving them a sense of support goes a long way. This experience can be new for both individuals- the one sharing and the one offering support. There might be moments where you may feel like you’re not doing enough, but just remember that something as small as listening goes a long way. Be kind to yourself and remember even as a friend and a helper, you are not alone. Ultimately, its okay to ask for help and you should never be afraid to redirect help to a professional psychologist or psychotherapist if you need further assistance.

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Self Care Has No Restrictions

Self Care Has No Restrictions

The new year is typically the time when most people tend to set goals for themselves in hopes of a positive change. However, this year, many of us have been feeling overwhelmed and drained from the circumstances that have been taking place around us. Unfortunately, the pandemic has completely changed what we once knew as our normal daily lives. Goals were easier to make and reach without the impositions of lock-down rules. Having to constantly readjust to restrictions being placed or lifted can be quite taxing. We may finally start a goal then have to halt it. As such, it is important that we incorporate self-care as part of our regular routines that can withstand the ups and down of lockdown restrictions. Doing so will ultimately help us keep up with the taxing effects of the constant changes.

It is quite easy to make excuses and neglect ourselves. There are moments when we need a break, but we don’t allow ourselves to take that time off. One reason can be due to restrictions in place- we may struggle to find creative ways to give back to ourselves. Although it can be tough to work around the restrictions, there are many forms of self-care that can be woven into one’s daily life. 

It is important that we create boundaries so that we are able to take care of ourselves to prevent burnout out. The art of self-care truly is unique to the individual. Although there are a few things that aren’t possible given these restrictions, such as going to the gym or visiting a museum, there are plenty of other activities that are possible. 

One of the most underrated forms of self-care is walking. Taking a nice stroll around your neighbourhood or even through a park is a great way to get some low-impact exercise into your daily routine. Several research articles have shown that the benefits of walking include reducing one’s symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Think of a walk as nature’s way of nurturing you. 

Another way to take part in self-care could be as simple as enjoying your favourite meal. Although restaurants are closed for dine-in or at limited capacity, that does not mean that you cannot enjoy a meal. Take a look at your favourite restaurants and plan a take-out to enjoy with your family or by yourself while you watch a movie.  Another option is to find a video and take on the role of chef.

Movie theatres may be closed but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a movie night with your loved ones! Take advantage of platforms such as NetflixParty which allows you and your friends to watch movies at the same time while in a video call. Other options could be using a platform that allows for screen sharing such as Zoom. 

For some of us who feel recharged by staying in, you could unwind by reading a book or having a spa night. Take the time to finally read that book you’ve been eyeing but have felt that you were too busy to read. Reading is a really nice way to unplug and take a small break away from the world. To elevate the experience, you can put on a nice face mask to help you unwind even more. 

Taking care of yourself does not have to be complicated! Many self-care activities can be done from the comfort of your home. Doing small activities, you love and making sure you are attentive to your needs is crucial, especially during uncertain times like the present.  It can be easy to spread yourself out too thin and it’s always harder to give yourself time to regroup. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. Take the time out of your day to truly pamper yourself. It could be 15 minutes or even an hour; make sure that it’s fully dedicated to you and your needs. 

Going forward, make it a goal to prioritize yourself and your needs. Block off some time for you to be able to take a break from your other commitments. There are plenty self-care activities that can be done from the comfort of your home if going out seems to not be a viable option. This doesn’t necessarily need to be something extravagant; it can be as simple as going out for a walk or reading a book before bed. Show up for yourself by doing an activity you love!

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