How to be a life preserver

Whenever I’m going through a hard time or a bad day, I usually will reach out to someone in my support network. I don’t believe I give enough credit to the people that very often keep me moving forward. The things they have done for me– I can’t even begin to list. This post is dedicated to the my life preservers who I have put through so much and thank you doesn’t even begin to make up for that.

Here is my advice for helping someone through a tough situation:

  • Listen. This is simple, ask them what’s going on and let them tell you. Try to talk them through the situation. This will help calm them down and get them to see the situation from another perspective. If you don’t know the person very well, sometimes just talking to them about other things like what kind of stuff they like to do for fun will do wonders. It will help calm them down. 
  • Be there in person. I’ve had people both come to me or just text me when I call for help. I prefer talking to people in person. I understand that sometimes this won’t work for the circumstance and that’s okay. If you can, meet them somewhere. It will help them to have you there in person to comfort them. There is nothing better than a good hug. 
  • Check your judgments at the door. This person is probably going through a lot. Do not bring your opinions and judgments into it. That will make them feel worse. If you are there to judge, then you shouldn’t be there at all. 
  • Recommend they talk to an adult. There is only so much that you can do if you don’t have the experience to help them. This is not your fault. Don’t feel like you failed them because while they may not see it like this until much later, you are opening the door for them to get the professional help they need. This may not apply in the case that they are already seeing a psychologist or counselor. 
  •  Be forgiving.  I know that sometimes you feel like they are trying to put all their problems on you and make you feel bad. They cause you to lose sleep and be up at 4 a.m. worrying about whether they cut themselves or not. This is something that makes me hesitant to call for help because I always feel horrible knowing I put them through hell in the process. At least for me, I know that is never my intention and I would hope that isn’t the intention of others. Just know that they aren’t trying to hurt you. 
  • Suggest they contact hotline/do so yourself.  There are a number of 24/7 hotlines out there for all sorts of things with people trained to help. They are a great resource and have saved me from time to time when I don’t want to burden others. Hotlines can help you too as the friend. The people on the other end of the line can help you help someone else.Check farther down for some resources that I recommend.
  • .Do not blow them off, disregard them, or treat their situation as a joke. If you do this, you are going to escalate the situation. You will make them lose trust in you and everyone else and they will not want to reach out again to anyone else for fear they will treat them the same way. Even if you think that what’s upsetting them is insignificant, it matters to them. If you are truly uncomfortable in the situation or feel you can’t help them, just don’t respond. They will hopefully and most likely contact someone else. I’ve had someone tell me to go get drunk after a major family situation and it sucked. It destroyed me and ultimately ruined the friendship because I could no longer trust them. 
  • Check in on them from time to time.  If they text you one night really upset and then you don’t hear from them for a few days, text them and ask how they are doing. This will make them feel like you care and chances are they will try to do the same for you. 
  • Love them. Love them like a sister, brother, friend, child, niece, or nephew. However you know how. They need to be loved. 

I’m not saying these are foolproof methods. These are what I think would help from my perspective. I am not a professional and I do not have all the answers. This is just advice. I’ve listed some resources below that I think may be helpful.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be an expert. Just give what you can. A gift is a gift no matter what it is. 

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