Depression doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It causes a ripple effect that touches everyone surrounding the person. Family members and friends often feel helpless, not knowing how to reach out or what to do to help their suffering loved one.
How does a family member proceed, then, with little or no direction? Every individual is different in how they handle the beast of depression, but here are a few universal things you can try that will empower both you and your loved one toward recovery and hope.
1. Educate Yourself About Depression and Other Mood Disorders
You may not be able to cure your loved one. But you can better understand his or her condition by educating yourself about depression or the kind of mood disorder he or she has. Reading up on your loved one’s illness will help you feel more in control of the situation and give you more patience to tolerate the confusing or frustrating symptoms.
- Ask Questions and Dig for the Root Cause
The best way to understand a subject is to research it like a journalist and ask a lot of questions. With depression and anxiety, asking questions is critical because the terrain is so vast and each person’s experience is so different. Chances are that your friend is not going to voluntarily cough up the information that you need, because he or she is too ashamed of the symptoms and afraid he or she will be judged. To better know what’s going on, you must dig for the information. Here are a few questions to consider:
- When did you first start to feel bad?
- Can you think of anything that may have triggered it?
- Do you have suicidal thoughts?
- Is there anything that makes you feel better?
- What makes you feel worse?
- Are you under stress
You know your sister, friend, brother, or father better than most mental health professionals, so help them solve the riddle of their symptoms. Together consider what could be at the root of their depression: physiologically, emotionally, or spiritually. Where is the disconnect?
- Help Them Identify and Cope With Sources of Stress
It’s no secret that stress is a significant contributor to depression. Chronic levels of stress pour cortisol into your bloodstream and cause inflammation in your nervous system and every other biological system. Stress also interrupts healthy coping strategies, which makes a person more vulnerable to mood swings. Your job is to help your loved one identify sources of stress in his or her life and brainstorm about ways to reduce it. These don’t have to be dramatic changes. Small tweaks to your day, like employing some deep breathing techniques, can go far in reversing the detrimental effects of stress. Stress also interrupts healthy coping strategies, which makes a person more vulnerable to mood swings. Your job is to help your loved one identify sources of stress in his or her life and brainstorm about ways to reduce it. These don’t have to be dramatic changes. Small tweaks to your day, like employing some deep breathing techniques, can go far in reversing the detrimental effects of stress.
- Encourage Them to Seek Out a Support Group
It doesn’t matter what the illness is cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, fibromyalgia. A person needs support in her or his life to fully recover: people with whom they can vent and swap horror stories, folks who can remind them that they are not alone even though their symptoms make them feel that way.
- Remind Them That They’re Incredibly Strong
“When you’re depressed, you don’t believe that you’re worthy of love,” explains Dr. DePaulo in Understanding Depression: What We Know and What You Can Do About It. That’s what makes relationships and especially communication so difficult. One way of nudging them to recovery is by reminding them of their strengths. Use concrete examples. Cite times in their lives they exemplified courage, stamina, compassion, integrity, and perseverance. Use photos, if you have them, of accomplishments in the past or victories that will bolster their confidence and encourage them down the path of healing.
- Make Them Smile, Because Laughter Helps and Heals
For an hour, we all exchanged glances as if to say “Is it okay to laugh?” The effect was surprisingly powerful. Whenever the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill called depression) has gotten a hold of a friend, I try to make her laugh, because in laughing, some of her fear and panic disappear.
- Let Them Know They Won’t Always Feel This Way
If I had to name one thing a person (or persons) said to me when I was severely depressed that made me feel better, it would be this: “You won’t always feel this way.” It is a simple statement of truth that holds the most powerful healing element of all: hope. As a friend or family member, your hardest job is to get your friend or brother or dad or sister to have hope again: to believe that they will get better. Once their heart is there, their mind and body will follow shortly.
- If You Do Only One Thing, Let It Be Listening
“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.”
Article by: Health.D Cam
Source: EVERYDAY HEALTH