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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again

How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again

While there seems to be a ton of articles and advice available that is tailored for those who are struggling with depression, there doesn’t seem to be too many articles made for those who have friends that are struggling with depression. However, helping a friend through difficult times is just as important!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with depression, depression is a mental illness, and can be mild or severe in nature. It is characterized by a persistent somber mood and a lack of interest or excitement in life and activities.

Clinically speaking, depression can be mild, moderate, or severe in presentation. To be officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, as noted in the DSM-5, a person must consult with and be under treatment from a mental health professional. However, many people suffer the symptoms of depression regardless of whether they have an official diagnosis.

If you know someone close to you who is dealing with depression and needs some extra support in coping with symptoms of depression, here are some tips to help your friend cope and learn to love life again!

1. Remind Them That They’re Important and Loved

Depression has the ability to make someone feel as though they are not important or loved. This could not be further from the truth! However, those who are dealing with depression may not be able to see this.

The most important thing that you can do for your friend is let them know that you are there, and that you care about them immensely. Although this may not settle in immediately for your friend, this type of support reminds them that their contributions are important and will help them to find the motivation to seek out options for recovery.

Even more important, you must back up this emotional support with supportive actions. If your friend needs help with anything, make sure to go out of your way to prove that they can rely on you to help them out in their time of need.

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When your friend begins to see that they have the support of another person, they will begin to realize that they are worthy of love and happiness, which plays a big role in the recovery process.

2. Reintroduce Activities That They Used to Love

As was stated earlier in the article, depression often prevents a person from enjoying the activities that they used to love.

One of the biggest tips that health websites provide for those dealing with depression is to continue doing activities that previously enjoyed doing, even if it offers no joy at the moment.

When you have time, reach out to your friend and plan an event that you can do together at some point during the week. Ask them what they used to enjoy before they became depressed and take note of these activities so you can schedule more plans in the future.

These plans will help them to get out of the house, get back into their old lives, and guide them towards the realization that they are not alone and have people that they can rely on.

3. Provide a Safe and Secure Place to Vent Their Feelings

Not everyone understands depression and this lack of understanding can sometimes cause people to get frustrated with people who are depressed and who are struggling to be positive or find the light.

Patience is a virtue, however, and it is important that you remain patient and withhold judgment while your friend is going through this difficult time.

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Give them a secure place to vent their feelings and lend them an ear without attempting to give them unsolicited advice. Individuals who are dealing with depression just need someone to connect with and talk to. This can make a world of difference!

Of course, if they do ask for your advice and you think you have something to offer them, go for it! If you don’t know what to say, however, it is sometimes better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing.

You can even recommend that they seek help from a mental health professional if you feel that you are not equipped to offer the advice that they are looking for.

4. Offer Words of Encouragement and Positivity

There is nothing better than feeling terrible and hearing kind and uplifting words from your friend.

If you notice that your friend is beginning to experience self-doubt or starting to talk down to themselves when they are around you, offer kind words and remind them of who they are.

Depression often provides people with a view of themselves through a distorted lens. Treating depression calls for challenging negative thoughts, which can be hard if you’re coping on your own and do not have any reminders of who you used to be.

Lift your friend up when possible and reintroduce them to that older version of themselves so they can begin challenging those thoughts on their own.

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It is also important to note that you shouldn’t overdo it when it comes to encouragement and positivity. Not everyone dealing with depression has a high tolerance for these things and pushing positivity on someone could have the opposite effect desired!

5. Use Humor to Heal

They say that laughter is the best medicine. This is especially true when it comes to depression!

In fact, one study conducted by the Sapienza University of Rome found that laughter can actually improve your mood and lessen the effects of the symptoms that one experiences while dealing with depression.

Whenever you’re with your friend, make your best effort to make them laugh. No matter what they find funny, even if it is usually slightly inappropriate, take those jokes and use them to your advantage.

Just a simple giggle can have a huge effect on the way that your friend feels. Even if you only manage to alleviate their feelings for a second, that second can really improve their outlook of the future.

6. Show Them You Care by Doing Little Things

Yes, grand gestures of affection can certainly show someone that you care. However, it is often the little things that really make others light up and feel better about themselves and life in general.

Make an effort to show your friend you care about them and their happiness by doing little things that matter to them.

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For example, you could do something as simple as hiding small notes of encouragement around their house and belongings or by giving some of their favorite treats each day.

Whichever actions say “I care about you” to your friend, go out of your way to do those things and watch them light up in response.

7. Help Them Create a Valuable Support System

Here’s the truth: you aren’t going to be able to help your friend deal with everything on your own. They are going to need other people in their life and you are going to have to take breaks to take of yourself as well.

People who are dealing with depression need a solid support system to help them get on the road to recovery so that they can return to their happiness.

Reach out to other friends within your and your friend’s friend group and see what they can do to help your friend love life again.

By creating a solid support system, you will have an even easier time supporting your friend and helping to usher them back into the light.

Life is a truly beautiful thing, and those who are dealing with depression just need to be reminded of that. By using these 7 tips above, you will have no problem helping your friend find their happiness once again!

Did you have any questions that weren’t answered in this article or did you need more in-depth information about depression? Take a look at more of the depression-related content posted within our Mental Strength section. 

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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Dylan Buckley

Dylan is Lifehack's Motivation Expert specializing in self-development, with extensive experience working for life coaches and startups.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

4. Interrupt Your Day

When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

Final Thoughts

Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
[4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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