10 ways to help a loved one who is suffering from depression

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When someone you love is suffering from depression, it can leave you feeling helpless and incapable of lifting some of their burden and assisting their recovery. Loving someone with depression is never easy, as some days they will push you away and it will feel like you can’t do anything right, and others they will need you there more than ever. These are some small ways you can help your loved one deal with their depression and progress along the road to recovery in their everyday lives.

1. Get outdoors

Simply going for regular walks with your loved one can really ease the overwhelming effects of depression, allowing them to get some head space and feel calm in a natural and open space. Nature has been proven to have a calming effect on our minds, and as well as this, vitamin d from sunlight is a key factor in the production of ‘happy hormones’ in our brain.

Exercise also causes endorphins to be released in our body, which can also be an effective mood booster. It might sometimes be the last thing they want to do, but with some gentle encouragement, take your loved one somewhere outdoors and they will soon feel the benefits.

2. Encourage their creative side

It is well-known that having a creative outlet can improve mental wellbeing. Art therapy is nothing new when it comes to recovery from mental health disorders.

Helping your loved one find a creative outlet which they enjoy; such as painting, playing an instrument, even writing, can help them escape from the trap of their depression and channel their energy into creating something that is just theirs.

3. Keep tidy

Depression for some people can feel like their life is spiralling out of control, and that they are slowing down as the world around them moves faster and faster.

A small way you can help your loved one is by helping to keep their living environment organised and de-cluttered, so that they do not feel overwhelmed by the mess at home as well as the chaos they feel regarding other elements of their life. Creating a calm and tidy home environment will help them feel more relaxed and at ease, at least in their home.

4. Stay positive

As much as you shouldn’t be over the top in being cheerful and happy around a loved one who has depression, it’s important that you stay positive and gently help them see the good in every day.

Keeping a positive attitude is important, as although encouraging them to voice the negative or anxious feelings they might have in different scenarios, it’s also important to initiate more light-hearted conversations and a more positive approach to each day to help with their recovery.

5. Don’t ignore it

Whilst talking about your loved one’s depression and their feelings all of the time is not the best way to help them feel loved, ignoring these issues is not the answer either. An individual suffering from depression will often do all they can to hide their issues from those close to them, and bottle it all up inside.

Encourage your loved one to open up to you when they feel comfortable to do so, as often opening up about their can lift the weight from their shoulders and help them release some of the negative energy which has been consuming them.

6. Remind them that they have your support

It is important that your loved one knows that they have you to lean on when times are hard. This does not mean you need to constantly say ‘you can talk to me’ and ‘I’m here for you’, but just regularly let them know that they aren’t going through this alone, and that you are there to help lift the burden of their depression.

If they seem like they are comfortable in opening up to you, then give them time, allow them to set the pace of the conversation and listen when they feel they have something to say without interrupting them or offering a stream of advice. Just offering a pair of understanding ears can make a huge difference.

7. Be there, even when they push you away

Depression might make your loved one difficult to deal with at times. They will have days when they feel that the whole world is against them, including you, so will try to push you away and seclude themselves. This is a form of crying for help, so give them some time but still be there, be patient, and they will come to you when they need to.

Simply giving in and leaving them alone when they tell you too can reinforce their ideas about being alone with their issues and that isolation is what’s best. Instead, just give them some space but stay nearby, ready to help them when the right time comes.

8. Don’t walk on eggshells

Avoiding issues of depression and conversations with your loved one which might be difficult is one of the worst ways of trying to help them. It is so important for them to open up and feel comfortable in being honest about their feelings if they are going to progress with their recovery.

You need to put aside your fears of what they might tell you, or notions of tiptoeing around issues they face, as helping them confront the causes and symptoms of their depression is essential for them to move forward and improve their state of wellbeing.

9. Don’t use tough love

Sometimes when someone you care about needs a reality check, you might turn to a ‘tough love’ approach, as an honest perspective on an issue they are dealing with might be exactly what they need to move forward. However, this is not the case with someone suffering from depression.

Saying ‘you need to sort yourself out’ or ‘get some perspective, your issues are so small in the scheme of things’ is not going to help your loved one battle their depressive thoughts, and might make it worse as it encourages to have even more self-deprecating thoughts.

Instead, a gentler approach is necessary; encouraging them to work through the issues they face regarding their mental health with you, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant the cause of their negative thoughts might be, will help them on the road to recovery.

Remember, each individual’s depression is unique to them, so it is not up to you to judge the reasons for their depressive thoughts. Instead, support them as they learn to understand and move through their barriers towards happiness.

10. Tell them why you love them

This can be one of the most fundamental ways to help your loved one. After all, you love them for a reason, or likely many reasons, so reminding them regularly of the good things you see in them and the reasons you care for them can help them see their good qualities and the positive way they contribute to your life; making progress towards loving themselves again.

Don’t bombard them with compliments in a way which seems false, just tell them when you’re proud of them, praise even small achievements, and in doing so help them see the positive things about themselves and in their everyday lives.

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