In my previous blog, I wrote about my experiences with anxiety at university, and a link to the article can be found here. In particular I mentioned in the fourth paragraph that I tended to keep my problems related to anxiety to myself. However, there have been a few friends and family that have been a great help to me during that time, and I have also tried to be a good friend to my friends as well. In this article, I mention 5 things that some of my friends and family did that were really helpful, as well as things I tend to do to help a friend that is struggling. Although this article is geared towards how to help a friend that is struggling, a lot of what is mentioned can be applied to be an amazing friend in general, and not just to someone that is struggling.
– LISTEN CAREFULLY
Sometimes, if you are trying to help a person that is struggling, you may not be able to relate to the person, and therefore you may not know what to say. That’s fine and the person struggling is likely to understand that. However, what is normally extremely annoying is when it becomes obvious that you aren’t fully listening to them. It’s important to remember that your friend has trusted you to share their problems with, so therefore the least you can do is give your full attention and show that you genuinely care. For example, if you are speaking face to face to them then don’t be texting other people on your phone at the same time. If you are listening to their problems over text messages then make it obvious that you are carefully reading their text messages rather than responding by one-word messages. There have been times where I have tried to share my struggles with someone and it was clear that the other person didn’t listen carefully to what I had to say, which was extremely off-putting.
– CHECK UP ON THEM
This is probably the most important point out of the five, and it’s one that so many people fail to do. When a friend is struggling, it’s good to say that you’ll be there if you need them, but it’s also really important that you take the initiative to reach out and check up on them every now and then. Checking up may involve a simple text message asking them if they are keeping well, or it may involve offering to meet them for coffee. Taking the initiative to reach out is important as it sends a message to the other person that you genuinely care for their wellbeing. When I was struggling with anxiety, people reaching out to me asking how I was went a long way in helping me deal with my problems, as it further reassured me that support was there. You can’t use your busy schedule as an excuse to not check up on someone, as even if you can’t meet them face to face, sending a text message only takes up two minutes of your time.
Sometimes you may want to reach out to someone that is struggling, but not know what to say. That’s perfectly normal, and in this case just asking them how they are and telling them to take care of themselves is usually enough, and the person will appreciate the fact you reached out.
– UNDERSTAND THAT YOU CAN’T FIX THEIR PROBLEMS FOR THEM
This is something that is not mentioned a lot, but important to point out. We all want to help a friend that is struggling, and it’s good to do so. However, you need to remember that although you can try your best to help them, you can’t fix the other person’s problem for them. And nor should you try to, because at the end of the day you don’t have the power to change someone else’s situation. It’s up to the person that is struggling to find solutions to their problems and whether they decide to follow your help and advice is up to them. This is why a part of you has to trust that they are capable of taking ownership in order to fix their own problems. From my experience with anxiety, I knew I was capable of overcoming my problems, and the main reason I opened up to my friends and family was usually to get the problem out of my system rather than to try and get them to fix my problem.
– REALISE EVERYONE DEALS WITH THINGS DIFFERENTLY
In my previous article, I mentioned that everyone deals with problems differently, and this is another important thing to remember. You may be someone that deals with problems by talking about it a lot to others, and that’s great if it works for you. However, the friend you are trying to help may not deal with problems in the same way as you, and that’s fine. Therefore, you have to take into account that everyone is different and therefore a one size fits all solution is unlikely to exist. That is why I tend to avoid giving super specific advice to others because unless I know the person extremely well, there is a high chance that giving super specific advice won’t help them. However, in some cases you may be able to relate to the person that is struggling, for example you’ve had a similar experience in the past. In that case it is good to talk about how you felt at the time, and things that helped you overcome the struggle. Even though not everything that worked for you will work for them, there will be a few things that they will take away from your own experiences that will help them.
– LOOK AFTER YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH
Too many times in the past few years have I seen people neglecting their own wellbeing and mental health just to help someone else. As someone that has struggled with anxiety at university, I would hate it and feel extremely guilty if one of my friends tried to help me at the cost of their wellbeing, and I am not alone when I say this. Reasons why trying to help someone else may come at a cost of your wellbeing include having to listen to really sensitive issues when you are struggling with your own mental health, or being reminded of a traumatic experience that has happened in the past. The reason why people neglect their own wellbeing to help someone else is because they don’t want to come across as being selfish. However, if you are struggling with your own mental health at the moment, then you are doing a disservice to yourself by putting someone else’s needs before your own.
Note that a lot of what is said in this article is relevant to helping any friend, and not just one that is struggling. Do you have any other key tips to be a good friend to someone that is struggling? Comment on the comment section below!