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10 Things To Remember When You Help A Depressed Friend

10 Things To Remember When You Help A Depressed Friend

Most people don’t really know how to react when a depressed friend confides in them. When this happens, we have to be very sensitive in our actions and with what we say and don’t say, but often these things aren’t very intuitive. I should know because I’ve made many mistakes myself, and only realized later that I had made them. Thus, I’ve made a list of 10 things that we should always remember when helping a depressed friend.

1. Remember to listen

This one is so obvious. But I needed to say it because being able to listen attentively is especially crucial here. Do not get distracted, ignore those text messages for a bit, and focus all your energy and attention on your friend. The least you can do, really, is to make your friend feel important and like he or she really matters right now.

Your friend needs you. Be a good listener and don’t assume you already know what they have to tell you. It is an honor that your friend chose you to open up to, instead of someone else. Tread lightly.

2. Remember not to judge

The time your friend will need extra love from you is when they are feeling utterly depressed. As Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” That is true. There is no way you can help someone when you’re coming from a place of judgment.

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Everybody judges other people to a certain extent. I’m no exception. But this is definitely not the time for that. Do not tell your friend how sorry they should be feeling – 99.9% of the time you are entirely wrong about what exactly your friend is going through.

3. Remember not to compare

More often than not, life is relative. We have our own standards. If your friend is genuinely depressed at failing to achieve that A grade, don’t tell them that they shouldn’t be, just because half of the class failed. Likewise, if your friend is suffering from extreme loneliness, don’t go saying something like, “Well, I’m pretty lonely too.”

All this is useless stuff and it either does not add any value, or it makes your friend feel worse. Drop it, seriously. You might as well tell your friend how terrible they are for feeling depressed when there are people starving with no roof over their heads.

4. Remember never to suppress their emotions

Another thing that adds zero value is telling your depressed friend to ‘be strong.’ Or not to cry. What does being strong even mean? And definitely don’t tell your friend to just ‘snap out of it.’ It doesn’t work, period.

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This is not the time to dictate what your friend should be doing or feeling. Your friend needs connection. They need someone to share the burden with, not to miraculously rise up to the occasion and suddenly become ‘strong.’ It’s not on you to fix anything.

If your friend just needs a day to get over it, so be it. The same if they need ten or thirty days. Your job is to be there for them, and not to say something like, “You shouldn’t be brooding over it for more than three days.” Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person alone.

5. Remember to express empathy

Shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown says it best here. Feeling with people.

“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better, is connection.”

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6. Remember to offer support

Do what it takes so that your friend feels like you have got their back. Make sure you mean what you say. Telling your friend how much you care, or even telling them that you won’t let them go through this ordeal alone is oh, so easy. Prove it with your actions.

Call again the next day to check on your friend. Sacrifice an entire day to be with them. Send a hand-written note. If you’re busy at work, send a digital hug to let them know that they’re not alone. Remember, it’s not so much what you say or do, it’s how you make your friend feel.

7. Remember to make physical contact

Where possible, physical contact always helps. Be it a tap on your friend’s hand or arm, a pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder, or better still, a nice warm hug.

All these things release oxytocin in the body and fuel the connection between the two of you. And when one is depressed, what one really craves for is connection. Because as Dr. Brené Brown has already mentioned, your words rarely help anyway. So shut up and just give your friend a big hug. Show them some love.

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8. Remember to be patient

What I mean by this is that your friend may say hurtful things and become very difficult to handle. Your friend might appear to be impossible to deal with. Just remember that this is not really him or her. This is the depression in your friend. It is temporary.

Depression might also make it hard for your friend to connect with anyone around them, even if you happen to be their close friend. They might be emotionless. Be patient and do not take it personally.

9. Depression is serious business

Depression is a serious illness. Understand that something terrible or traumatic does not need to happen for someone to be depressed. It can happen for no rhyme or reason. And it isn’t just about being in an extremely sad state. In fact, someone can be silently suffering from depression and yet look totally fine. If you suspect a friend is depressed, encourage them to seek medical treatment as well.

10. Remember not to neglect yourself

Lastly, do take care of yourself. If your friend is depressed, it can bring you down no matter how hard you try to help and show your care and concern. Know when to pull back and when you are doing yourself more of a disfavor than a favor for your friend. You may even have to be selective right from the beginning sometimes, so choose wisely. Always remember to love and respect yourself too.

Featured photo credit: Felipe Morin via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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