Maybe you don’t struggle with anxiety or depression, but there are people in your life that do. Here are five tips to support your loved one(s), written from the heart + in collaboration with my sister, Angela.
First thing’s first … HAPPY 2020!
Real talk: the end of this decade was emotionally trying for both myself and for my family. And while I’ve touched on the inevitable, heightened stress of the holiday season, this last one was harder for me than years past. It was a period of my life when not only mine, but also my family members’ mental health was top of mind – even more so than usual (and that’s saying something!).
You see, some mental health disorders, such as anxiety, are genetic. Basically, you’re more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if your biological relatives have anxiety disorders or other mental illnesses. And while this isn’t the case for every family, of course, it is the case for mine.
My parents and siblings have all experienced some level of anxiety and/or depressive disorders in their lifetime. My 29-year-old sister Angela, specifically (a new mom of twin girls, Olive and Rosemary!) is currently working through an intense wave of depression. And if you follow along with adventures & anxiety, you know I deal with anxiety and panic on the reg.
Angela was brave enough to open up and share how the people in her life have helped her through this tough time. I shared a condensed version of this over on my Instagram, but wanted to expand here in hopes that a little bit more detail can help you or a loved one in your life.
Since anxiety and depression are closely linked, and anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., I’ve added in some thoughts on how to help those in your life who are struggling with anxiety, too.
Here are five impactful ways to support those in your life who are living with anxiety and/or depression.
1. Ask how best to support them.
Angela: Sometimes, we don’t know what we need, but being asked by our loved ones “how can I support you?” may require us to dig deep and think about what we actually need. Plus, the thought alone is comforting.
Lisa: I second what Angela said. When it comes to anxious-filled moments, having someone to simply listen to my worries and feelings makes all the difference.
2. Try not to take things personally.
A: When depression is at its worst, self-care is the last thing on my mind – let alone going out or having a conversation on the phone. Although a phone call can be helpful (everyone has their preferences when dealing with depression), the energy it takes to have the conversation may be needed to simply get through the day. So, if we don’t answer, it’s most likely not because we don’t want to talk to you, it’s because we have limited energy and that energy may be used to just get out of bed and function on some level.
L: While I don’t personally suffer from social anxiety, when I am having a bout of anxiety, just the thought of simply meeting up with friends can make it worse. My family and friends who are understanding of this, and honor the boundaries I’ve set without making me feel guilty, are the ones that have helped the most on my mental health journey.
3. Let them know you’re there for them.
A: Knowing you’re dealing with depression, it can sometimes feel like a burden for yourself and for your loved ones. Knowing your friends and family haven’t given up on you is such a relief. This may be a concern that’s floating around in our minds, compacting the depression itself. Knowing we aren’t a burden, would take that pressure off and alleviate some of that pressure.
L: A solid support system makes all the difference when it comes to overcoming anxiety. Simple acknowledgement means a lot, and goes a long way.
Knowing your friends and family haven’t given up on you is such a relief.Angela Gallo Bennett
4. Research the mental illness.
A: Research, research, and more research. The more you know, the more you can understand and sympathize … And when you understand and sympathize, you’re better equipped to help or at the least have more patience with your loved one. This will support the person living with depression, because then they will not have to explain every bit of their illness or what they’re going through.
L: Research doesn’t have to mean Googling symptoms, it can mean asking the right questions. For example, get to know your loved one’s anxiety triggers and do your best to be there for them when these arise.
5. Offer to lend a helping hand.
A: Like I previously mentioned, self-care is not always a priority when we’re depressed. Some of our responsibilities may fall by the wayside as we struggle to get through our daily routine. Helping to cook a meal or walk the dog ensures that your loved one is being nourished or that their dependents will receive a little extra TLC.
L: As an anxiety-prone, detail-oriented person, I usually have a very, very long to-do list … Which obviously adds stress to my life. If you have a friend like me in your life, offer to help them prioritize their responsibilities and remind them to tackle things one at a time. An extra hand always helps, too!
A huge, heartfelt thank you to my sister for opening up to me and to you all. We hope this is helpful, and we wish you and your loved ones peace in the New Year!
Have any tips to add? Comment below or feel free to send me a DM on Instagram!
Lisa + Angela
Please note that neither Angela nor I are mental health professionals. We solely share from our personal experience. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have.