According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 10 adults are affected by depression. Common behaviors of those with depression include withdrawal, anger, flat expression, and even suicidal thoughts. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that more than 40 million people in the U.S. struggle with anxiety disorders and can be very debilitating.
It’s day three of your partner, sibling, best friend laying in bed, not showered and unfed. You’re feeling lost, unsure of how to help them into a better place. Take a breath- you’re not the only one in this position. There are some easy and simple tips of how to understand and be patient when your loved one is struggling through a bout of depression or anxiety.
1. Stay calm.
Stay calm as best as you can. The more worked up that you get, the more your loved one will also get worked up. This can lead to a fight or it can lead to your loved one panicking over how to make the situation better. Try some deep breathing exercises with your loved one, and when they are up for it, try some easy, relaxing yoga. Youtube has fabulous, free yoga videos. I know it can be very frustrating when you feel like your loved one has an absolutely amazing life, yet they are talking about suicide or talking about how awful they feel. Just remember that they are in a dark place; your loved one isn’t thinking about the amazing times you two have together, but rather how they think they are ruining your life by existing.
2. Talk it out.
This may seem like a “duh” moment, but it honestly helps your loved one to just talk it out. Even if they don’t want to, if they just sit there in silence, it shows that you care enough to listen when they are ready to talk. Try initiating the conversation in low, calm tones, such as, “I noticed you’re having a difficult day, and I was wondering how I can help.” If your loved one does talk, be supportive and listen. Try not to interrupt, and let them take the time to essentially spit out everything they are feeling. For some of us with extreme anxiety or depression, we are worried that we are burdening you, and it can take us some time to actually say what we need to say. If your loved one wants to remain silent, calmly remind them that you are always there for them and will be there when they are ready to talk.
3. Hug it out.
This may not work for everyone, but it is possible that slight pressure around the person who is having an anxious day, such as a hug, can help relieve that anxiety. During these moments, I personally use a weighted blanket, which I ordered off of Etsy. The recommended rule for weighted blanket is 10% of your weight. I chose to do a little less and order a 15-pound blanket, which works wonders. It’s not always recommended for children, so consult a doctor before ordering one for your kiddos.
If your loved one is having a very anxiety-filled day, distraction may be effective. Try asking if they would like to color or watch a movie to get their minds off of what is bothering them. I find the best coloring books on Amazon. The tricky part of distraction is that your loved one may feel like they’re forced into an activity. Try to approach the activity in a light and calm manor, and ask them to join you in coloring, watching a movie, or going for a walk, etc. Don’t approach it as a, “Come on, let’s go,” or that you’re annoyed that your loved one won’t join you. During this time, energy levels can either be extremely low, or they can skyrocket past the point of sensibility.
This is similar as numbers 2 and 4. Encourage your loved one to talk, to vent, to be silent, or to do activities. Either way, just encourage and be there for your loved one with whatever is their best coping mechanism. If they haven’t established a coping mechanism, try something new. Encourage your loved one that it is absolutely ok to not be ok. Be there for your loved one the same way you would want someone to be there for you. Remember, your loved one is either extremely worried or in a very dark place, and sometimes it’s hard for them to process simple things during that time.
I know that it can be extremely difficult to be patient and to understand what your loved one is going through. It’s vital that you do some research for ways you can help your loved one through a difficult day. Try not to push your loved one away, because this can affect their mood more. Try to remember that your loved one loves you no matter what, and they want to be better, especially for you. They are so grateful that you are there for them, and soon it will get easier for both of you.
Don’t forget that there are also resources for yourself. Seek out counseling to vent about your worries. If counseling isn’t in the budget, try reaching out to some trusted friends who can help you through this time. Also remember to take care of yourself, and monitor your own mental health. Find your own coping skills.