A Helping Hand – five little ways to help a struggling loved one.

Sometimes everything just gets a bit too much, and all the things you’re so determined that you want to do suddenly go out of the window before you can even grasp what’s happening. I feel lately that’s what’s happened to my ability and confidence to do a lot of things and it’s horrible. It’s an awful feeling wanting so much to do something productive and positive about the things that are hurting you, yet feeling physically and mentally unable to start in any capacity. Be it blogging, writing, art or confrontation it’s frustrating getting things you need when all you can do is….nothing!

An awful lot has been going on and is changing for me, and it’s taken it’s toll quite hard. Focusing is hard to do, in truth there’s only a few things occupying my mind as of late and it’s being detramental to everything else I enjoy.

When I’m still and have not much to focus on I still feel horribly guilty and disappointed in myself for not completing any tasks I set for myself…. but sometimes these things just happen. You can’t predict or change the way your mental health might turn on you and it’s a terrifyingly worrying thing to try and process and cope with, but i’m learning. Friends, recently have been getting me out of a rough patch and back onto focusing on things that make me happy. From writing letters to keeping me out and about, it’s slowly starting to work.

Some things in life are an awful lot easier said than done, and unfortunately, sometimes when a mate or someone you care about is going through a rough patch, striking up a conversation about it or letting them know you care can absolutely feel like one of them. Where do you start? HOW do you start? What if they don’t want to respond? What then?

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be difficult to be in someone’s corner. There are lots of ways you can help, and not all of them have to be as hard as trying to have a direct conversation about their struggles face to face. Here a few little things that (from experience) can help make bridging the gap a little easier, so that no matter from what distance, you can always find some way to be there.

 

#1. Coffee? Tea? Or Buiscuits?

I don’t know why this is true, but sometimes everything just feels so much safer and easier to say or let go of when you have your hands wrapped around a warm mug. But equally, there’s something hugely comforting about sitting in silence with a friend whilst you both sip and take some time out, even if you don’t talk at all.

The amazing thing about meeting for a coffee or asking someone if they’d like to drop in for a cup of tea is that you can do it almost anywhere be it in a living room or meeting for coffee in the corner of a little coffee shop and making your own little space there too. If hot drinks aren’t your thing, you can go for a glass of wine or a pint, or get takeaway bagels and sit on a bench in the park – but never underestimate how important and comforting just sitting next to someone can be.

#2. Find a safe space.

If you’re able to meet up face to face, there are ways to make your friend feel secure enough to communicate with you. Find a safe space. Walking together or sitting in a serene area or even driving around are all amazing, because the experience of talking to someone whilst you’re side by side can be so much more freeing and less daunting than directly face to face. The changing scenery helps too as your mind isn’t fretting as much about the intensity of what you say, because it’s noticing everything all around.

#3 Genuinely care and try…..

Sometimes sending that initial message and asking “how are you?” can be a bit difficult, you many not get a response at all or recieve a conditioned response of “I’m fine thank you”

When someone asks how you are in everyday life, it’s more of a polite part of the ‘hello’ dance rather than a genuine inquiry into your wellbeing. There’s an overwhelming fear that no one *really* wants to hear in response that actually things are really horrible and your close to tears, because we’re all scared of the response. We’re afraid of being a burden, or too much, or too intense. We’re too scared of losing people.

It’s of course always still a good idea to ask someone you’re worried about how they are, but if it feels like you’re hitting a wall a bit, sometimes it helps to approach from a different angle: Rather than take a break, rather than bombard them with the same messages every day send small messages of support that let them KNOW your thinking of them, show that you’ve noticed things seem a bit rough and that they will get through it and that you support them and care about how they are, without actually going through the awkwardness of ‘confronting’ them about it. For example, tag them in a postive quote post on instagram or type a quick text saying ‘Just in case you needed to hear it today, you’re wonderful human being and I love you – you’ve got this!’ can say everything it needs to and more.

#4. Not all Mail is Junk and Bills

As we get older, it becomes more and more likely as we find our own lives that we might even end up on the other side of the world from a friend we love and care about. An experience I’ve recently had. When it’s just not possible to see someone face to face or be nearby, when it’s hard to arrange a Skype date…. little handwritten letters and tiny care packages are the closest and most brilliantly comforting thing you can get next to giving someone a real life hug.

Letters are amazing for the same reasons as texts mentioned above, but handwriting does amazing things at closing distances both emotionally and geographically, and you can keep them forever. Letters can sound like a scary prospect, but they don’t have to be essays – write a little note in a card about why you love them as a friend, or send them a bunch of cuttings of their favourite actor or band. If that all seems too much, you can send a bunch of post-it’s with silly in-joke references on them, or tell them what you bought in the supermarket, ANYTHING at all. Just let them know you’re rooting for them, and lovely effect will be the same. ‘This is not a letter, but my arms around you for a brief moment’

#5. Little goes a long way

When everything starts getting messy with your mental health, one of the first things to disappear off the radar is your ability to practice self care and the normal, tiny acts of compassion we show ourselves as human beings in order to keep going. Eating properly, showering, sleeping, washing our bedsheets, all become impossible or too daunting or unimportant beause keeping yourself from totally breaking down is the only thing you have the energery to do. This is where you can help someone whom you know is struggling.

When things have been awful for me, some of my friends have posted me little surprise packages full of things to help remind me it’s okay and necessary to look after myself, like mini shower gels or a pair of fluffy socks to snuggle down in. Little post it notes with reminders written on them. It doesn’t have to be that big a gesture, it could be something as simple as ordering a pizza to their house or posting their favourite biscuits through the letterbox, but it’ll fill them with more joy, and relief than you know.

 

Hopefully this might give you a couple of ideas, but remember that what you do and how you do it doesn’t have to be hard, it can be easy and fun and as simple as giving them the extra cheese off your pizza, it’ll mean more than you can imagine.

Until my next post, see you online! Charlotte x

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