TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR
When someone is going through a difficult time, they often feel isolated, scared, worried and stuck.
You don’t have to be a therapist to help someone feel less alone.
The first thing to do is to validate their feelings with compassion and warmth, without doing too much talking and without trying to solve their problem. Instead of giving suggestions or advice, you can give them simple messages like these:
- “That sounds hard!”
- “Thank you for telling me.”
- “I care about you.”
- “I’m sorry for your loss.”
- “How can I help?”
Find the right balance between helping someone else and taking care of yourself.
Are you someone who immediately does too much when someone asks for help? Or are you someone who is so worried about getting overwhelmed that you avoid the person because you don’t want to have to say no?
Selflessly helping others without caring for yourself can undermine your mental and physical wellbeing. You might start feeling exhausted, burned out, and/or guilty because you can’t do everything that they need.
The solution is to be realistic both about what does and does not work well for you.
This often means that you have to disappoint somebody who wants more from you than you can give. Fear of letting someone down can make it harder for you to help them at all.
Ultimately, people have to be responsible for themselves. It doesn’t have to take much time or energy to express compassion, be a sounding board, and if someone wants advice, to brainstorm options.
Make sure your help is actually helpful.
Someone who is struggling might be very resentful if you step in with your own agenda about what you think is best for them.
Before you act, think first. Ask first. Listen. Instead of taking over, you can help them figure out how THEY want to approach the problem.
Follow through by checking in often.
When a crisis happens, lots of people might jump in to help right away, and then disappear as they get busy with other things.
Someone who is still struggling long after the immediate crisis is over might not have the energy to reach out and stay connected.
You can continue to show up for them by:
- Checking in by text or phone and asking “How are you doing?…How are things going?” You don’t have to be original – the same simple words let them know that you’re thinking about them.
- Inviting this person to join you to take a walk, watch a movie, or share a meal.
- Offering to do a simple chore or pick something up for them at the farmer’s market.
- Sending a card with a handwritten note by regular mail.
Helping others can also help YOU.
Making even a small difference in someone’s life can be very rewarding.
For communication strategies you can use now to strengthen communication in all types of meaningful relationships, see our Skills for Safe, Strong Relationships.
For more, visit our Mental Health resources page.
Focus on what you CAN do
Constantly thinking and worrying about big problems outside your control can make you stressed, anxious, and distracted – without making anything better.
Focus instead on small, positive steps that you have the power to take.
Even one small, positive action can help replace isolation and despair with connection and hope.
Make self-care a high priority
Most of us know that getting the rest, exercise, connection, nourishment, and care we need will make us calmer, happier, and more prepared to do our work and help others.
The problem is that making enough time for self-care can feel impossible with work, school, and family responsibilities.
It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we can get by with far less self-care than we actually need.
Without investing in ourselves, we are harming ourselves.
This is why it’s essential to make nurturing ourselves a top priority in our daily lives.
Develop & choose positive beliefs
Beliefs are thoughts we have over and over until we become convinced they are true.
Some are empowering. Some are limiting. All are changeable. Just deciding to change a negative belief probably won’t work at first because it won’t feel true.
For example, going from “I hate my body” to “I love my body” doesn’t happen just because we decide we want a new belief about our body.
Instead of trying to make a big leap that doesn’t feel true, you can use a strategy to change a negative belief in smaller steps, gradually, over time.
Protect your feelings
Have you ever felt miserable because of something cruel that someone said or did to you? Has this experience made you miserable over and over again every time you remember it?
You have the power to protect your feelings so that you can stay safe emotionally.
Create safe and strong relationships
Developing safe and strong relationships helps us to reduce isolation, protect our mental health, and add joy and purpose to our lives.
Even one strong connection with a caring person can help to replace despair with hope.
Times of transition often lead to the loss of ongoing close relationships. Even if you don’t have someone you can talk with on a personal level right now, brief, positive exchanges with strangers and acquaintances can brighten our whole day. A smile, a wave, or a short chat about the weather can help us to feel more connected and less alone.
Here are some ways to meet new people and improve your relationships.
Set & respect boundaries
Do you ever feel misunderstood, taken for granted, or disrespected?
By speaking up clearly, respectfully, and powerfully, for what you DO and DO NOT want, you can reduce stress, improve communication, and prevent and solve problems.
Setting boundaries can help you to protect your time, your feelings, your body, your safety, and your mental and physical wellbeing.
Recognize and ask for what you want
One of the most important keys to good mental health is being able to do things that give you joy, satisfaction, and success in your life.
In order to do this, you first have to determine your own values, goals, and priorities.
Next, you have to look at what your options are and figure out some specific next steps for taking action.
And then, you need to be prepared to advocate for yourself persistently, respectfully and powerfully.
Here are some ways to recognize and ask for what you want.
Do you hate asking for help? Do you want to solve problems yourself instead of leaning on other people? Have you had bad experiences where the help you got made things worse?
Unfortunately, many cultures view asking for help as a weakness or as being selfish.
Some families see getting professional help such as counseling or therapy as being a personal failure, and associate mental healthcare with being ‘crazy.’
Getting help when you need it takes courage and strength.
Here are some ideas for how to overcome obstacles to getting the right kind of help for YOU.
Protect your personal safety
Too much misery, suffering, and trauma are caused by abuse, bullying, and assault.
The good news is that you have the power to protect yourself most of the time.
Here are some ways that you can develop the confidence and skill to take charge of your personal safety at home, at work, online, and in public.