10 Ways to Show up for Friends Who Are Struggling

As we get closer to the anniversary of the initial lockdowns due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, there is still so much collective grief to process. In some ways, this pandemic has created a barrier between our loved ones and us. In other ways, it has exposed fractured relationships. Our time spent on social media to connect with others has ironically made us terrible at connecting with people. It is easy to exchange texts without someone hearing a change in your voice or seeing your eyes well up with tears.

With the ongoing public health crisis looming over us, it is difficult to spontaneously show up in person and hug each other the way we might have done in the “Before Times.” However, there are still many ways to show up for friends who are struggling. Before trying anything, check in on them and ask: “How are you coping?” The best thing to do is not assume and ask upfront if your friend is okay. If you know they are not okay, ask how you can best support them.

Here are 10 ideas:

1. Send a care package including bath bombs, teas, their favorite snacks, etc.

We all feel a little blue sometimes and the pandemic makes it harder to just show up at someone’s door unannounced to drop some cheer. Sending a care package is great because it boosts both the sender’s mood and the recipient’s mood. If you went away for college, you know how special care packages can be. This helps when you feel nostalgia, homesick blues or just missing your loved ones.  (Check out our shower spa gift set which can be sent to them directly!)

2. Give gift cards to local restaurants for takeout or Lyft/Uber credits for a ride.

If a friend or loved one is having a hard time, in a funk, or feeling overwhelmed with grief, they could use a break from cooking or driving. A gift card is an easy way to allow them to have autonomy but relieve them from deciding and focusing too much. Think of casseroles for grieving loved ones.

3. Offer to take on one of their to-do list items, such as pick up their groceries or make a post office trip.

This is similar to easing the burden of tasks mentioned above. They might have many errands or tasks accumulated that they just do not have the bandwidth to handle. It may not seem like much, but this is actually very much appreciated, especially for those who do not feel comfortable asking for help. Ask your friend, “are there any tasks or errands I could help with?”

4. Research counseling services and various types of specialties (e.g., cognitive behavior therapy, psychoanalysis) that may be best suited for your friend's needs (i.e., reading reviews of doctors, asking for referrals etc.) and then provide the name and contact information of the doctor or a support group.

This is specific to those who have exhibited signs of depression, anxiety, or other conditions. If you know of a traumatic life event or loss, your friend might need help with coping and healing. In some cases, it might even save their life. Consider the closeness of your friendship and use discretion when recommending therapeutic services. Keep in mind that you should understand and respect boundaries.

5. Send a book or journal directly to their home.

Reading an inspirational book or journaling with prompts might help your friend focus their mind on something else (check out our selection of journals). These are not just distractions, reading books and journal writing are good ways to exercise your mind. Journaling prompts can be a productive way to aid in coping and healing rather than rehashing events that can stir strong emotions and lead to reliving difficult experiences.

6. Create a virtual support group with mutual trusted friends or community.

When you are unable to have in-person meet ups, on-line is the next best thing.  Having a global community is useful in case you ever need immediate support in the middle of the night as there is a group meeting somewhere in the world at that time. Scheduling video chats with trusted friends also help them resist isolating themselves further.

7. Schedule a Teleparty to watch movies or shows together and chat, virtually.

You and your friend are streaming movies and shows anyway. Why not watch it “together” and chat? Teleparty makes it easy to watch Netflix and other streaming services with a friend by sending them a link. You can pause together, chat on the side and rewind or fast forward when needed. Not as boisterous as yelling at the screen together but you could always skip the browser’s chat box and use your phone separately to have a call on speaker instead.

8. Send a handwritten note by snail mail.

Handwritten notes are a wonderfully quaint past time. Receiving one is rare and special. Remember pen pals? Thinking about what to write that was worth putting a stamp on was stressful but just as equally exciting. The only thing that could match the excitement of writing to your pen pal was waiting for a written response. Sending a note lets your friend know that you are thinking of them and they will appreciate the gesture.

9. Schedule a virtual yoga or meditation session.

In the “Before Times,” you might have invited your friend to a drop-in yoga class or meditation session, but this has not been an option for a long time. The next best thing is a virtual exercise class, such as yoga. Sign up and list your name as an attendee as it helps with accountability.

10. Try a weekly activity like write-ins or watercolor challenges that are open to the public.

Writing or painting are outlets for creative self-expression and can be a therapeutic practice. Sometimes, we cannot find the words to convey our feelings but certain colors help us communicate them. Many therapists and counselors who work with younger children use art as a form of journaling. This connection does not fade as we age. This is why adult coloring books are so popular. Joining your friend is better than providing encouragement from the sidelines because you are modeling being vulnerable, which takes a lot of courage.

There are many other ways to show up. Let’s normalize community care within self-care and continue showing up for each other. Let’s also normalize asking for help when we struggle. Sometimes asking for help is how we show up for ourselves in self-care.

If you are the one struggling, please reach out for help. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

This post was created as part of a collaborative series on mental health and wellness with Belle Penseé for informational purposes only.  Belle Pensée was created by a school psychologist to make mental health support free and accessible and to foster a supportive community for people struggling with mental health.

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