Life is a puzzle, a different one for each one of us. And we’re all trying to decipher it in our own ways. No two puzzles are the same, no two lives are similar. There’s no instruction manual we can follow to put our pieces together and reach our goals.
While we’re busy tackling our challenges, we get absorbed in our lives. We often forget to care for our loved ones’ feelings. While caring for our own mental well-being, it’s also crucial to look out for our loved ones.
In 2019, NAMI identified that 1 in 5 people were struggling with mental health. Post-pandemic, these numbers have shot up. Thankfully, the stigma with mental well-being is disappearing. But we still have a long way to go.
It’s heart-breaking to see our loved ones struggle. Most times, it’s hard to know how to offer support. We may not know how to approach the subject without hurting their emotions. Here are a few ways you can help:
Listen with undivided attention
How often are you truly listened to? In a way that makes you feel comforted? Not a lot, we’re guessing. That’s because we’re wired to half-listen when a lot is already going on in our minds.
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”― Roy T. Bennett
One of the first ways we can help our loved ones is to listen. The trick is to quieten your mind and listen mindfully. Don’t go into the conversation thinking, “I already know this.” When you’re in that belief, your mind turns to default listening instead of deep listening. Listen with an empty mind.
Be empathetic and non-judgemental
Empathy is the foundation of understanding. Recognise your loved one's emotions and understand how they're feeling to help them.
“Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.” – Brene Brown
Don’t run ahead of the conversation. Instead, ask questions to understand your loved one’s perspective. Empathy is trying to put yourself in their shoes. It’s trying to understand what they’re going through. Acknowledging how they feel. And doing it with a non-judgmental frame of mind.
Encourage to seek therapy
As much as we want to help our loved one’s mental well-being, it’s also important for them to seek professional help. If their emotions are spiraling out of control, despite you caring for them, it’s not your fault. You can’t completely guide them out of their struggles.
“Therapy is like a toothbrush. You can’t really put it to use for anybody but yourself.” ― Linda Holmes
Sometimes, it’s easier to open up to people who we are not emotionally connected with. Your loved one might not have the motivation to take this step. This is where you can step in and offer to set up an appointment with a therapist. They might feel nervous before the first session. Help them list down their emotions and questions before they go in.
Care for yourself to care for them better
As the old saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Give yourself enough love, attention and care. If you don’t care for your own mental health, how can you care for your loved one’s?
Caring for a loved one’s mental well-being is not straightforward. It’s hard and we need to give them the push. There might be times when you feel like you’re not doing enough. Trust us, you are. Your small acts of care and support are adding up to make a big difference in their life.