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Stronger Bonds

How to be supportive of a loved one going through a hard time

Martine Foreman
Martine Foreman December, 30, 2019

Book-lover, mom, kickboxer, motivator, dreamer 

Among the sunny days and good vibes, life has a funny habit of throwing some pretty heavy stuff our way! Everyone experiences difficult situations every now and then.

When tough times fall on the people you love most, it's natural to want to help out. In these instances, knowing how to be supportive is incredibly important. Understanding how it feels to go through a challenging situation — and how much the support of a good friend can help — can give you the insight needed to brighten your loved one's outlook and bring a smile to their face once again.

So, how can you offer the right support?

The first thing to remember as you figure out how to be supportive is that everyone needs different kinds of support. When one of your friends or family members could use a helping hand, it's wise to give some thought to the best way you can express your support.

Some people just want to know someone's got their back, while others find their cure-all in an evening of friendship, ice cream sundaes and bad movies.

Even if you're not totally sure how you should support your loved ones, don't sweat it too much — they're sure to appreciate any effort you put into making their days better. Here are six fun and creative ideas for being as supportive as possible during tough times.

1. Pop the question, start a conversation

Everyone wants to feel heard! Simply asking what's going on in your loved one's life can help you figure out how to be supportive. You may be afraid of prying or sounding intrusive, but letting them know you're there to help (if they need it) can go a long way.

If you give them the platform to tell you what they need, you'll have a better understanding of what their issue is — and how to help them move forward. This doesn't even have to happen in person, a video call can be just as therapeutic as a coffee shop chat. Don't be afraid to start the conversation!

Brazilian afro women using tablet computer in the park2. Give actionable advice (if asked)

Unsolicited advice is rarely as helpful as you think it is. If your loved one is in the middle of a difficult situation, wait for them to ask for advice before you offer it. Sometimes the best support you can provide is an open ear, so listen intently to what they have to say.

If they do ask you for your take, keep an open mind and consider all angles when responding. Your job as a friend and confidant is to set them straight — not to make snap judgments.

3. Share a few laughs

Whether it's catching up on celebrity gossip, reminiscing about the good ol' days or binge-watching your favorite series, you can help your friend get their mind off of things by putting a smile on their face! Laughter is good for the soul — and although it doesn't fix problems, it sure helps people feel better.

In fact, it's been proven that laughing releases "feel-good" chemicals in the brain known as endorphins. In addition to a cathartic release, sharing a laugh can relieve pain. Pretty good for something that doesn't cost a dime!

4. Offer an escape

When people are facing a difficult time, sometimes they just need a brief escape. Taking their mind off of the current situation and getting some distance — literally — can give them with the space they need to put things in perspective and come up with potential solutions.

Bring out your inner event planner and help your loved one get away from it all. You might even offer to escape with them, if they'd like! This can be as simple as taking a gourmet cooking class together one evening or heading out for a weekend retreat in an exciting new area that neither of you have explored before.

5. Express affection in different ways

A perfectly chosen GIF will make one friend feel instantly better, even in the hardest situations, while another may stay down in the dumps until they're wrapped tightly in a bear hug. It all depends on the person (and situation) at hand.

When someone you care about is feeling down, think about what makes them smile from ear to ear — and then make an effort to do it! This display of support reminds them that you care deeply about them, and that you'll always be in their corner.

6. Don't forget to follow up

Keep in mind that when someone faces a difficult time, it's not uncommon for a lot of people to check in. Sometimes all at once! Unfortunately, after a bit of time passes, the check-ins eventually slow down or stop entirely — even if the problem hasn't.

This is your chance to demonstrate to your loved one just how much they mean to you. Keep checking in until they assure you that they're in a much better place. Even after that time comes, let them know they can come to you if things ever go wrong again.

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