There is a lot of talk about the importance of self-care—taking time to do things that nourish our bodies and our souls. And while self-care is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle it’s not the only type of care a person needs nor is it the only type of care people should focus on.
Giving your time and energy to others can be just as nourishing to your soul as taking care of yourself. When people are going through challenging times or struggling with mental health issues like depression, it’s much more difficult for them to practice self-care.
When to Be There for Your Loved Ones
Often, when someone is down they just don’t have the energy to do the things for themselves that need. Even things as simple as picking up prescriptions, cleaning up around the house, or making a meal can feel both overwhelming and exhausting.
For this reason, it’s important to make sure you are intentional about being there for the people you care about. In fact, research shows that when someone is depressed, having positive, supportive people in their lives can have a positive impact on their recovery.1
Of course, you shouldn’t sacrifice self-care in the process, but instead strive to find a balance between doing for yourself and doing for others. Here are some ways you can show up for the people you care about whether it’s during a death in the family, because of the pandemic, or just to show you care.
Offer to Help in Practical Ways
Whether your loved one is struggling with depression or has recently lost a family member, life can feel overwhelming in these situations—so much so that the little chores of everyday life can feel enormous and burdensome. As a result, a great way to help your loved one and show up for them is to offer to help them in practical ways. For instance you could:
- Offer to pick up groceries for them
- Make a meal and bring it to their home
- Run errands for them like getting prescriptions, taking the dog to the vet, or picking up the drycleaning
- Help them pick up around the house, load the dishwasher, or do a load of laundry
- Pick their kids up from school, help with homework, or run them to soccer practice
- Take the dog for a walk
- Offer to take the kids out for a day so they can have some time to themselves
- Share your notes from school or keep them updated on projects at work
- Give them a ride to the doctor or help them write out questions for their healthcare provide
Create a Safe Environment
When someone is going through a tough time, it’s a natural response to turn inward and shut down to some degree. They may struggle with loneliness and often aren’t sure what to say or who they can trust.
One of the best ways you can show up for your loved one during times like these is to create an environment where they feel safe opening up and sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Here are some practical ways you can create a safe space for your loved one.
- Strive to be approachable and willing to be there by taking their calls and answering their texts
- Offer to listen and then follow through without offering advice or trying to fix things
- Call or send a text just to let them know you’re thinking about them
- Demonstrate your trustworthiness by guarding their privacy and keeping things shared with you in confidence
- Be compassionate and empathetic, and recognize that what they’re going through is challenging
- Refrain from assuming you know what they are thinking and feeling
- Encourage them to open up and share their thoughts and feelings without analyzing their words
- Recognize your role is to be their friend and not their therapist or doctor
Demonstrate That You Care
Telling someone you are there for them is a good first step in showing up for people, but sometimes your actions will speak louder than your words. For this reason, it’s important to do real, tangible things to show your friend or family member that you truly to do care.
Even if you don’t know exactly what to say, or even if the situation makes you feel uncomfortable, there are practical things you can do to show that you care about someone. Here are some ways to show you care:
- Ask them what you could do to help and then follow through
- Put away your phone and focus on them when together
- Ensure you allow enough time to truly be there for them and avoid rushing through visits
- Be patient with them and avoid hurrying them through a conversation
- Recognize what they are going through is challenging and you may not understand
- Send them a text, call them, or a mail a card to let them know you are thinking of them
- Reach out in loving ways by putting a hand on their shoulder or offering them a hug
- Bring them their favorite food, a good book, or a small gift like a journal
- Send them flowers, an edible arrangement, or box of cookies
- Offer to do something fun together like have coffee or see a movie