Human beings are social creatures who need each other to function, fulfill their goals, and grow in every area of life. However, no matter how hard we try to keep in touch and support each other, moments of desperation, disappointment, and discouragement happen. With the pandemic, it’s especially important to check up on friends who have been in isolation. If you find that a loved one is hurting or in need of support, here are a few ways to help a discouraged friend.
Acts of Service
If you notice a drastic change in a friend, it’s natural to want to help. When you encounter this situation, be certain about what he or she needs and how you can help. Never assume anything or try to control what happens. For instance, if the friend in question is a parent of young children, ask what you could do to lighten the load with the kids. Do allow your friend to share what is burdening them the most, that way they feel heard and respected. Also, by posing the question, “Is that okay with you?” you make it optional for your friend to accept or turn down your offers of assistance.
Spend Time Together
Usually, a discouraged person loses interest in social events and prefers to spend time in seclusion. Since your mission is to help and be present in their lives, dedicate as much time as you can to the relationship. Again, don’t assume anything or push yourself on them. Be considerate of where your friend is and be gentle.
You can offer to take a walk together, play games they love (even if you don’t), or watch a movie. The key to this is to create opportunities to talk about what may have caused the downfall of emotions. Remember that the mark of true friendship is sacrifice, and you want to prove to your friend that they matter to you, regardless of a busy schedule.
If you have tried everything to support your friend, but there seems to be no improvement, you may need to ask for help. Involve other people and professionals in the situation if it’s more than you can handle. You must be mindful of your mental health as well. We can certainly be pulled into a loved one’s negative drama if we are not careful. Supporting someone is one thing, but it’s not good to sacrifice your health in the process.
If your friend is open to talking to others, consider the specifics of the situation. He or she could need a clinical psychologist or therapist to support more serious mental health issues. Consider that there may also be a need for a legal professional such as an injury attorney, family law pro, or someone to help with finances. Only contact outside services if your friend asks you to or is obviously not able to on their own. I also recommend contacting their family if it gets to this point.
Use Positive Words of Encouragement
Words have energetic power and can turn around a situation if someone is open. Consistently sharing words of encouragement and positivity may be the ‘semantic medications’ your friend needs to feel supported and encouraged. Do, however, keep in mind that some expressions can be cliché and sound patronizing. Speak with sincerity and about things that you know your friend can relate to. Most of all listen to what is said and don’t offer advice unless it is asked for.
There are times you may not even realize that a friend is feeling discouraged. Look for signs such as a drastic weight loss or gain, unusual sensitivity to words, or a general loss of interest, among others. Hopefully, you can help your friend navigate a difficult time and show just how much you care in the process.