If you have been following my articles, you know by now that I have personally struggled with anxiety and depression all my life.
This is mostly a result of the trauma and abuse I endured in childhood and adolescence. I turned it into a blessing as I learned how to heal myself, and as a result, I’ve also been helping my clients for over 15 years utilizing a holistic, non-medical approach.
Unfortunately, I have found that mental health is still stigmatized, and even though emotional and mental health can be a leading cause of several chronic illnesses, many people still don’t seek help out of fear of being labeled as “crazy.” It’s even more difficult for loved ones who mostly don’t understand that one cannot simply “snap out” of depression as their patterns of negative thinking are deeply rooted. Many times it’s the subconscious beliefs that were formed even before age 7 that are the root cause of one’s low self-esteem and anxiety. Coupled with trauma, it can leave some deep scars that take long time to heal.
The most important thing you can do to help a loved one with anxiety and depression is to be supportive and don’t put any additional pressure for them to get better.
It can be a long and lonely journey and especially if one is like me a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Per Margarita Tatakovsy MS, there are several things that can be helpful.
Below are 5 ways you can help those with Anxiety and Depression:
Be there –
Be supportive even if you might not completely understand the nature of their struggles. What helped me most personally is having supportive friends who lifted my spirits and most of all, really listened. In addition to, your loved one needs reassurance that this too shall pass because many times they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t judge or criticize –
This can only make things worse. Respect how they feel and understand that they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. If they knew the way out, they would have already done it. Encourage them to seek professional help if their feelings last more than 2 weeks, as it can turn into a full-blown clinical depression.
Don’t minimize their pain –
Don’t say things like, “Why do you let every little thing bother you?” They may not always have control over it, especially if the individual is a highly sensitive person. Many of my ex-boyfriends who didn’t understand what mental illness is would tell me “You are too emotional/sensitive/you see things worse than they are.” Even though it’s true that to a person struggling with depression the world is black-and-white, it’s not completely in their control and they need to know you understand their pain and validate it so that they can feel re-assured and start making necessary changes in their ways of thinking and behaviors.
Learn as much as you can about depression –
There are plenty of great resources out there, including a variety of great books. One of the books that I highly recommend in helping you understand how our brain works and how we think is Feeling Good Mood Therapy by David D. Burns. There are also helplines dedicated to people suffering from depression or mental illness such as National Alliance for Mental Health (800-950-NAMI). Most of all, depression is not a static illness and can be triggered by events such as job loss or separation/divorce.
Be patient no matter what –
In order for the person to start feeling better, they need to know it’s okay to take a break to take care of themselves. Remind them that it is okay to temporarily forget about any important deadlines or obligations. Just by being there for them and asking how you can help can make a big difference.