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How To: Show Up for Others w/ Depression

It can be difficult to understand how to "show up" for others on a day to day basis. It can be even more challenging when friends, family, or significant others are experiencing depression. We want to help, we want to do what we can, we want to offer suggestions, etc. Although, it may not always be recieved by others as help and support.

Below are some strategies and tactics to consider when trying to understand how to "show up" for others who may be experiencing depression.

It can be difficult to understand the breadth and depth of impact that the experience of depression is having on an individual basis. Which can lead to a challenge in understanding "how to help."

Consider the following strategies and tactics...

  • Seek to understand more about the topic of depression and how others experience it. Knowledge will help you build the skills to identify how to show up..Read, watch, or listen to various resources available.
  • Be cautious translating the information you learn by trying to "teach" or "preach" to others about "how to '' overcome the experience of depression. If the solutions and answers were easy - they wouldn't be stuck in it.
  • Practice being a witness for others by listening and providing a space for others to share and offload their experiences. Just listen...
  • Start with extending sympathy for the challenge others are experiencing versus trying to convey empathy by comparing your "tough times" with theirs.
  • Let them have their own experience. Let them be seen and heard.
  • Try to understand it takes time to loosen up the knots of depression therefore be patient with others.
  • Avoid some of the "trap" statements that lead to invalidation, minimizing, shaming, blaming, etc. - such as "cheer up, it will get better", "think positively", "look at what you have", "if you went to the gym you'd feel better", "things don't seem that bad for you", "how long you think you'll feel this way", "this isn't fun for me either", etc.
  • Ask them for help or inquire if they' be open to volunteering with you somewhere. Helping others has been found to be a curative factor with depression. Therefore, asking others to help you resolve a situation or volunteer to help others takes the focus off their situation.
  • Schedule activities to do together. Initiating collaborative activities, especially focussed on self-care, can encourage the individual to connect, interact, etc. vs. isolate, withdrawal, etc.
  • Build a routine or create rituals to minimize the need to "think" and encourage "doing."
  • Identify if a reward may encourage the individual to try something new, different, etc.
  • Plant an indoor herb garden together. Herbs are easy, portable, and can be used for meals. The act of planting, caring for, and nurturing something can help take the focus away from the depression and put the focus on caring for something.
  • Create a collaborative "to do" list and offer to help work side-by-side or run the errands together to complete the activities.
  • Offer to be decisive when making day-to-day decisions as a way to initiate actions and behaviors. E.g., "Let's go out to eat tonight" vs. "what do you feel like?"
  • Identify a destination, if possible, that offers "awe" and "perspective." Such as a scenic viewpoint, a beach or lake, the sun setting, an art exhibit, etc.
  • Offer to initiate a shared asynchronous journal that you can both collaboratively write and share about the current experiences.
  • Remember the circumstances of depression are not "personal." What others are experiencing is not focused on you. Rather, try to remember you are a support, a resource, an advocate. Their mood is not about you...
  • If feasible, consider incorporating a pet into activities such as a walk, etc.
  • Explore if they may be open to "try" a new activity with you? Such as preparing a meal, trying Yoga or Tai Chi, or even practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation, etc.
  • Engage in open dialogue to understand if the person is "disconnected" from meaningful things. Such as, connection with others, future goals and aspirations, identity, power to influence; meaningful work or career, health or wellness..Listen to understand...
  • Consider activities and actions that can prime the "feel good chemicals." Such as experiencing something new or novelty for dopamine, experiencing something exciting that gets their blood pumping for adrenaline, experiencing a celebration, being seen, or being recognized for serotonin, or experiencing touch and connection for oxytocin.

If none of these strategies or tactics are helpful then a few final things you may do is to Be patient. Be loving. Be Kind. Be there with them. Be there for them.