Most of us occasionally feel a bit down or have a sense of being out of balance.

With our busy schedules and the many demands that we face, it’s not unusual to neglect our rest and nutrition, which leads to fatigue and a dip in energy. After a few days of taking it easy we usually recover, but for some people the feeling continues and deepens into depression or anxiety.

A spiral, which can be consuming and incredibly hard to get out of. If you notice a friend becoming detached, unwilling to communicate or losing their lust for life, it’s time to check in. But how do we do this without being intrusive or coming across as nosy? Here are some tips to help you bridge the gap:

Reach out

It can be exceptionally difficult for anyone struggling with depression or anxiety to talk about it. Go easy on them, but make sure to let them know you’re there for them and prepared to listen.  Ask questions to get them to talk about how they feel, but don’t assume they need advice. Try to validate their feelings by expressing your understanding of their situation. Talking might help them work through some of the issues they are facing, thereby lightening their load.

Educate yourself

To understand what people experience in these situations, it’s important to understand the facts about depression or anxiety. Doing a bit of research on what the causes, symptoms and behaviours are could help you further understand and support your friend. There are many resources to help sufferers and supporters alike. Online, you will find a multitude of sites dedicated to identifying the signs, dealing with the day-to-day issues and getting help.

Help with the small stuff

Often, it’s the little tasks that trip us up when we’re feeling blue. Getting to the grocery store, doing the laundry, cleaning up. Once those small chores start to pile up it gets harder and harder to get going, since the task has doubled in size. Offering to help with the little things could make a big difference to someone struggling. An online shopping order delivered when you know they’re home, or help doing a couple of loads of laundry while you visit. By eliminating the mental noise these tasks create you could free up space for much needed reflection or rest.

Remind them that this will pass

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is not something that comes easy during a period of anxiety or depression. Be sure to remind your friend that there was a time when they felt better and free from the weight that they are currently carrying, and that time will come again. Remind them of their strengths and the qualities you and others value in them.

Be patient

For some, depression is short-lived, intense bursts of negativity, for others it takes longer to revive and recover. From one day to the next it could get much better and then much worse again. Try to be patient, even if it seems as if they should have improved, remember to have empathy and imagine what it would feel like to be in their place. Resist the urge to tell them to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’. No one in the history of snapping out of it, has ever snapped out of it, by being told to snap out of it.

If all else fails, it’s time to get serious. Professional help is often needed in a variety of cases for people struggling with mental health. Helping a friend come to terms with the decision to seek professional help could be one of the most important things you could do for them. It literally saves lives.

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