Helping Others Through Anxiety, Depression, and the Heaviness of Life
How can you respond to help a loved one or friend who is dealing with Anxiety and Depression or simply the Heaviness of Life?
Be a very careful and good listener, desiring to learn the most you can about your friend or loved one's struggle with mental, emotional, or spiritual struggles, without feeling the need to respond quickly with answers or advice. This gives a friend or loved one permission and the opportunity to open up (possibly deep wounds) that simply need to be expressed, yet not immediately responded to by the listener.
Do REMEMBER that clinical anxiety and depression are usually complex conditionswith a host of factors involved and that simplistic answers are rarely helpful. Be a very careful and good listener, desiring to learn the most you can about your friend or loved one's struggle, without feeling the need to respond quickly with answers or advice.
Be a strong advocate for your loved one.Educate those around you about your loved one's or friend's struggles,with of course, only the permission of your loved one or friend. .
Do offer acceptance, even when you don’t understand their experience. In effect, you are giving permission for the person to open up and talk about their struggles. Many people battling depression or anxiety suffer in silence fearing the judgment of those around them. Be very careful to keep conversations confidential when a friend or loved one opens up to you regarding these issues.
Do be a companion to them; Just as Paul in the Bible was comforted by the coming of his friend Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6), reach out and offer comfort, support and encouragement to a struggling loved one or friend. Do not feel pressure to have an answer for them, just accompany them in the moment.
Do pray for and encourage your loved one or friend, Ask the Lord to comfort and strengthen their heart, and to help them accept the truth of His unconditional love for them as well as His nearness to them. Remind them that God cares about every detail of their lives, and that He hurts for them, and grieves with them. There is so much power in praying for a friend or loved one who is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other heavy issues of life.
Do leave the “doctoring to the doctors”and be supportive of someone pursuing professional counseling or medical care.
Show Your Support A feeling of support allows an individual to feel that they are not alone, that they have the support of a person or group, and especially the support of a close friend of who can provide a much needed deeper level of comfort along the journey. However, do remind and encourage your friend or loved one that Jesus, His Spirit, and the truth of His word will be the ultimate comfort to their soul.
Be Available to talk with a friend or loved one, when they are ready, not needing to have answers for them, but simply giving them an outlet to share their suffering experience. Also be willing to take them for an outing, even if it's just a ride in a car or to have lunch, but be mindful of their comfort level when planning an outing. Ask them what they would be comfortable doing. The goal is to help your friend or loved one to simply begin functioning again - at any level.
Help your friend or loved one identify "Triggers"(A 'Trigger' defined as 'something/someone that causes something else to happen') causing one to enter into a time of anxiety, panic, or depression. Identifying triggers can help a friend or loved one know situations/events/people that may contribute to their condition.
Help your friend or loved one re-discover hobbies or things they once enjoyed in life that will help them to become functional and active again. However, remember that it's important to be sensitive to that person's level of energy and comfort with the duration of the activities. Daily small and simple steps lead to greater steps in the future.
It's ok to hurt and to mourn, and to not have the answers...sometimes just the close fellowship of others is what is needed....we are not called to have all the answers...but instead, simply to be pilgrims together along the journey. Be willing to experience the moment with them. Psalm 23:4'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death....(periods of mourning, grief, pain, suffering)' Jesus said in Matthew 5:4, 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.'