When you have depression you often feel like a burden. You're not gonna ask someone for help because you don't want to be in the way, no matter how small the favor is. Since the standard response to the question "How are you doing?" is "I'm fine," no matter how not fine you are, there is little use in getting offered help.
So if you have a loved one with depression (let's call her "Jane"), don't just offer your help -- take action and say "I'm doing this for you." Don't make it a suggestion; simply let her know that this is happening and that you will be there at six thirty.
Concrete ways of showing you care
1. Clean her place
When you are deep in a low period, cleaning is often not something that gets done. It's a great way to handle anxiety and overwhelm, but when you have depression most things feel impossible to do. So go to her apartment and clean up the kitchen, vacuum the floors, and do some laundry. It might feel weird to invade someone's privacy like that, but believe me, it is much needed and she will feel better having a clean apartment.
Clutter has actually been linked to higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), and it especially affects women, so make sure to organize some clean, open spaces to create a more relaxing environment for her.
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2. Cook for her
Another thing that can be put very low on the list of things to do is eating. Sometimes it goes the other way and you binge on candy and junk food, but either way a healthy meal is needed. Tell Jane that you're coming over with some groceries and you'll cook a nice meal you can share together.
I know that it would be easier to have her come to your place, but this way there's no way she can back out. She's already struggling, so don't add more to her plate (apart from food, of course) than she already has. Going to someone for dinner might seem like an easy thing to do for you, but not for her.
3. Bring over some DVDs and have a movie night
Make sure to pick out happy movies -- no use in adding more sadness to her life. Watch romantic comedies and animated movies with a big bowl of popcorn and cozy blankets.
4. Invite her to join activities and make it easy for her to do so
I know that I've pushed for going to her place and not making her go outside so far, but the truth is that it's good for her. Don't push too hard, but if things seem to be getting a bit better, invite her to the girl's night you're having or the movie you're going to see. Just make it as easy as possible (and hard to drop out) by picking her up so she doesn't have to worry about driving and finding parking.
5. Take her out for a walk in the park
Something that helps improve mental health a lot is spending time in nature. You often get self-destructive when you're depressed and don't do things you know is good for you. So take charge, pick her up at her place, and spend some time in whatever nature you have nearby. Even if it doesn't seem like it, it's doing wonders.
Photo by Mike Benna
6. Offer to talk about things
She will probably say no, but keep asking once in a while. It is usually easier to talk about things via text, so try that approach. Not having to deal with eye contact and having the time to think what exactly to say can be the difference between holding it all in and talking about it.
7. Find a therapist for her
This might feel like overstepping, and it depends on the person. But talking to a professional can do wonders, and by doing the research yourself and maybe even booking the appointment for her you take most of the anxiety out of the situation.
When I was at my worst it took me six months to finally schedule an appointment because it felt too overwhelming to google and decide on a therapist. When I finally did (the first one that showed up), she turned out to be the perfect fit for me and helped me tremendously. It doesn't make sense when you're feeling good, but things like that feel just impossibly big to do when you're depressed.
8. Bring over your dog or cat to play
Petting animals (even turtles!) has shown to reduce your stress levels faster than drugs with that purpose, showing a difference within just 5-25 minutes, according to Psychology Today. So bring over your little fur baby and let their unconditional love cheer her up.
Related article: The mental & physical benefits of going to the dog park (no dog required!)
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9. Exercise together
Exercise is proven to improve your mental health in so many ways, so sign up for a class or go lift weights together. If going to the gym feels like too much, do a quick body weight workout routine together in the living room or simply jog around the neighborhood. The point is to get up and moving and release those endorphins!
10. Keep a gratitude journal together
Negative self-talk and focus on the negative aspects of one's life are, of course, very common when you suffer from depression. To help her shift her focus to the positive, start a gratitude journal together.
Gratitude journals actually rewire your brain to feel, and expect, happiness, so it is one of the best practices to keep to dig your way up from a low period. To keep her accountable, text each other three things you are grateful for each evening. It doesn't matter how big or small they are ("I'm grateful for the sun shining" vs "I'm grateful for my big promotion"), the point is to keep finding things to be thankful for.
Don't give up on them
It's easy to feel overwhelmed when your friend is suffering from something that you don't really understand. But please hang in there, and keep showing up to spend time with her. Even if she can't express just how grateful she is for everything you do, for the fact that you're still there, believe me when I say that she is. She appreciates you so much, and you are such a good friend just for trying to understand what she's going through. So don't give up on her, and keep being you.
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