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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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