15 Best advices how to help a friend with anxiety or depression
While I was googling to get ideas for my website on “How-to” topics, it appeared me the term how to help a friend with anxiety and how to help a friend with depression.
Due to my spiritual emergency experience in 2020, I have been prone to read more about such topics that are related to physical health, mental health and spiritual health, that for sure I have been meditating to keep developing myself in such topics.
In the meantime I start the courses, I would like to write about the best advices I can give to you if you want to help a friend with anxiety or depression.
How to help a friend with anxiety or depression advices
One of the first advice before moving forward to the other advices about how to help a friend with anxiety or depression is that, we can’t have the control. Of course, you don’t like to see someone in a bad position, specially if it is a loved one, but is a care that they have to give by themselves.
If a person doesn’t hit hard bottom by themselves, a person won’t be able to learn and know how “deep hell” feels like. As hard it might sound, but going through the “death” and “rebirth” processes will be the ones showing the path to healing.
Therefore think as, “I can just let you know, I am here by your side to help to guide you on your decisions. We are in this together, and we can go through this.”
From an outsider perspective, answers and decisions of what has to be done might be easier, but is the person with anxiety or depression the one who has to decide to do the steps. A friend or family member can just control his or her own decisions.
The following advices are splitted into three segments, the mind, the body and the spirit.
It is done this way, since symptoms of depression or anxiety are mainly only focused to be a mental problem, where in reality there might be some other underlying issues or root causes.
Trying to separate the whole body or the spirit from a mental issue, won’t work. That is why people who are only going with psychologists or psychiatrists might be failing on their recovery.
Humans are interconnected within themselves. The problem is that Psychologists and Psychiatrists will focus on the mind and call it a mind issue. Doctors and Nutritionists will focus on the body and call it a body issue. Priests and Shamans will call it a spiritual issue. But have we dare to change that way of “healing” and seeing every single issue as a whole and not as separate entities?
It is about doing questions, and the answers will come.
Keep reading to find out more advices on how to help a friend with anxiety or depression.
Helping through the mind.
Show your support, but keep the distance
The mind is complex, and it will vary from person to person and to culture to culture on how “life should be lived”.
If a friend it is going through tough times, and he already briefly mentioned you about his problem, show him support with proper words and show him that you are right next to him or her.
People undergoing with the tag of depression or anxiety, are meant to be said to isolate from people. The thing is that we don’t know exactly what are they going through or why are they acting in such way, but sometimes isolation is needed to start an inner healing process. Sometimes, constantly asking about his status could eventually bother the person, causing that he or she might prefer to stop talking with that friend.
Therefore, one advice is to show support but also give a proper distance.
Be an active listener
There might be the cases that people only want to be listened, without any judgement or any following guidance or things they should do.
If your friend already reached you back after knowing that he counts with your support, then it might also be the moment of just becoming an active listener and not giving an extra opinion that might eventually question himself if he is doing right or wrong.
At the end, sometimes this is what psychologists do, they are active listening without judging.
Become a role model
If you personally have undergone depression or anxiety, or just want to help your friend, one of the best ways to do it is by becoming a role model.
I don’t think there is a human being that haven’t gone through any sort of difficulty, but certainly, sometimes we have kept them as secret. Of course, not everyone should know your personal life, your own fears, your own dreams, and your motivations, but certainly being a light around of your friends, family and community, could bring inspiration.
It is more likely that, if your friend knows what you also have been through and how you have overcome it, then he or she might try to emulate you or desire to also be out of his or her situation.
Envy could appear? Maybe, but remember that it is also our life, and we have to be doing our best, as we think we are doing it.
Learn about the impact of the brain neurotransmitters
Probably you have heard already about dopamine, serotonine, GABA and the brain neurotrasmitters. Well, there are more than 100 neurotrasmitters and of course they will have an impat on the brain.
Although I am more prone to natural healing, of course science have brought to light improvements thanks to the research on the impact of neurotransmitters.
I’m still not an expert on telling how neurotransmitters have an impact on the brain, but certainly I do know that the daily activities that we do also shape our brain’s structure.
I do think that with the constant use of smartphone devices, social media, video games and or even drugs, people are kept on high dopamine, that naturally once people are withdrawn from it, their minds might start to “feel low”.
It is like driving a Sedan car on a F1 race and trying to keep a speed higher of at least 250km/h, it might reach once that top performance, but it can’t keep it for long.
Food, daily activities, sleep, excercise, and medicine will have an impact on neurotransmitters.
How we nurture our brain, body and soul is what we get in return.
Get REAL expert or experienced advice
Here I prefer to say that sometimes a “professional” or “specialist” even if they have a degree won’t mean that they can really help a person who is looking for their guidance and therapy.
Knowing previously the cases that the specialist have dealt with and how eventually their patients results are, will be the indicators of how probably it will be that an expert can actually help.
As an example, one of the things I did regret before, was when I had a Hiatal Hernia surgery. An old man advice me, who wasn’t a doctor, “once you get a first surgery more complications come”. But as I thought in that moment, well, he is not the “expert”, I should do what the doctor said, the doctor is the specialist. Even going with another doctor for second opinion also supported the surgery idea. So years passed, and eventually I knew that the old man was right. Also my current doctor agreed that it would have been better to not have surgery and instead find the root cause at that time. But now that decision is on the past.
This is an example as well of how can going with psychologists and psychiatrists can turn out. Just because they have a document, it is not mean that everyone are good healers.
Therefore, the recommendation is to document yourself about the topic, either depression or anxiety, and be aware of with whom are you getting expert help.
This is not to undermine psychologic and therapeutic work, but certainly there are more factors involved and not just the mind.
Helping through the body.
Another thing to consider when talking as well about mental health is nutrition. As mentioned, what we give to our body is what it gives in return.
Having dealt with an autoimmune condition made me learn about the importance of the care that we have to give to our gut.
At the moment, Dr. Uma Naidoo has been a psychiatrist that I have found online who is talking constantly about the important connection of the gut and brain.
If there is any food allergy, sensitivity or autoimmune reaction, the gut will resent it and eventually will have a reaction in other parts of the body, including the brain.
Eliminating inflamatory foods
I strongly believe that nutrition should be focused on the individual and its own results of any food sensivities test. This way it can be found which foods can also be creating brain inflammation.
Therefore, one advice that can be given or done personally is to really trust in the healing abilities of food but real food and not just proccesed “natural foods”.
There might be different food triggers that can be causing brain inflammation, and for some it might be gluten, for some other might be lactose, or eggs. An elimination diet can be started, but it is easier to have some tests done and get individual results.
The food that might trigger me, might not be the same for you or for your friend, that is why with all this boom of health influencers sometimes their recommendations of avoiding foods might not work.
We are individuals, and this process also has to be adapted in order to find some other underlying issues for depression or anxiety.
Nutritional and Hormonal deficiencies
It is still uncommon that you are going to do a lab test to check your vitamin D, and or even some other important vitamins, minerals and even metals or hormones.
As example, if you are not presenting any symptoms of thyroid issues, then doctors will rarely test your TSH, T3, T4, TPO and TGA, and so many other hormones. But there might be also the cases that psychological symptoms of Hashimoto can be present, without being tagged as a “Hashimoto”.
If a person undergoing depression or anxiety is not also working on any nutritional or hormonal imbalance, then it gets more difficult to really just rely on psychotherapy.
A good action to be done is to ask a doctor or trofologist what other tests can be done to find out deficiencies. But remember, there might be as well lab tests that will not explain the full picture.
Certainly and personally, I have found juicing as an important routine to recover from nutritional deficiencies. Real food is real health, and being constant with what nurtures your body is key. People expect that within one month on a new restricted diet will help, and it won’t work like that. Healing, and specially on the nutritional side, takes time.
I think that the benefits of excercise are already fully well known.
The question is, how to motivate someone to do excercise or to at least do long walks?
If you already know your friend, you might already know what kind of things used to motivate him. Maybe asking directly do you want to go with me to the gym or go for a run will receive a negative answer in return.
Therefore, finding an extra motivator can be used to do the activity.
Did he or she enjoyed certain sport or have you seen some animals at the park that he might like? Or have you seen an interesting Youtube in house routine and want to share it?
Excercise can be helpful and be gradually done. For sure it will have positive impacts on mood.
Here is a difficult issue that might be happening, since we don’t directly control how we sleep, but for sure there are many factors that can be adjusted in order to improve it.
I am totally oposite of using sleeping pills, and rather I would recommend to check out Melatonin levels.
Consulting a functional medicine doctor about this important aspect of life can be really helpful.
What might be the causes of not having an adequate an restful sleep? As mentioned, there might be multiple factors.
Caffeine during the day? Any food that might be causing chronic inflammation and also affecting the night sleep? The brand of any medication?
Personally, when I changed the brand of the thyroid levothyroxine pills I was taking, I felt relief. I stopped having heart palpitations and my sleep improved a lot. But not all doctors and even oneself do the multiple questions to find out root causes of what can also affect sleep.
Unfortunately, the first attempt of solution is just to simply give sleeping pills without finding out root causes.
So when talking with a friend with depression or anxiety, recommending directly or saying, get a better sleep might also not work. Telling your story of what you are doing to recover sleep is a good step. Remember, be a role model and tell your own small baby steps victories.
Helping through the spirit.
And in this segment I would like to take into consideration the spiritual aspects of life. I might not be an expert yet of these topics, but I do consider that talking about spirituality should and must be openly discussed and included in health issues, also in such mental health difficulties like anxiety and depression.
I am certain that as the world keeps moving on into this worldwide openess and discussions thanks also to technology communications, spirituality will be moving towards an open perspective of the different religions of the world.
Religions will be used as medium or as a spiritual tool, rather than a faith dogma.
The benefits of a spiritual practice can be various and certainly it can help with stress reduction. The excess amount of stress or the need of the cortisol hormone in the body will also lead to different inflamations. Also the excess of cortisol will need the usage of Pregnenolone, a pre-hormone required to produce other hormones and not just cortisol.
Spiritual practice can be a soul lifting activity that can help someone in depression or anxiety.
There are 114 chakras around the body, and 7 are the most known chakras that run from the center of the spine.
There are many reasons one of the the chakras could be blocked and this will require introspection to really know the Self.
Here we share a infographic from Anxiety.org about energy blockages.
"Let it go" Phase
Here could be one of the most difficult parts of life to learn, and it is to learn how to let go.
What is keeping a friend on that state?
A failed relationship, a lost loved one, economical situation, family trauma? Just to name some.
The things that we can’t control, we have to learn to trust God, trust the universe for the better future.
As we might have tried many things or actions that we can actually do, we also have to be aware that pulling out someone from anxiety and depression is not in our control.
Keep your prayers, thoughts and meditations with the faith that “this too shall pass”.
Living the moment or living “the now”, is what eliminates and disappears the illusion that life brings itself. The life of being stucked on thoughts and worries that we forget to live the present moment.
What we can actually to is to live and bring the best of where we are, with whom we are, and whom we could be.
Yes, live the present, and also think of your own future and point towards it, to become the role model.
Letting go also the fear about what would happen if you leave your friend with anxiety or depression is a self realization that also has to become.
Understand the Dark Night of the Soul
The dark night of the soul can be a hard experience to understand if you haven’t gone through one.
Being at the deepest point that a person can be experiencing.
If a person doesn’t reach that point, in my opinion, it can be even more painful to be laying on a limbo until it does it.
Again, this is an opinion and any medical condition should be discussed with more specialists. But, what many attempts that mental health care are doing, from psychotherapy, medication, and also natural work, is to avoid reaching that deepest point, because it could also bring strong actions like suicide.
Even from a mythological perspective, there are some stories where characters were able to “visit and leave out from hell, and return back to life with the elixir.”
Sometimes there can be more recomforting and healing potential from the conversion of the breakdown to breakthrough.
Passing over that extreme of fear that anxiety causes or deep saddness of depression can have only one step, and is actually accept it and surrender to it.
We are not our thoughts, and certainly having these disconnections and becoming the observer of our thoughts are required to know thyself and point to the direction of healing.
I think that we are not really well taught to deal with the so called “negative emotions”, fear, anger, hate, jealousy, boredom, doubt, grief, shame and sadness.
I do think that society is being moved and pushed, to “be always positive, be always perfect, be always happy”.
“Don’t be sad, be happy”. Could be one of the recommendations, and hey! What a great idea?! Why I haven’t thought about just changing my mood and be happy!
But we know that it is not like this. Specially if a friend is dealing with anxiety or depression.
Why are you anxious? Don’t be anxious!. Not the words that we would like to hear.
One aspect of life that I do consider neccesarily is to integrate that negative emotions rather the repress them of set them aside.
And when a friend or even oneself is dealing with such emotions, there might be the cases that we don’t like those emotions that we prefer to repress them or ignore them, instead of actually letting the emotion to be felt and accepted.
That is also why I don’t really think as well that anti-depressants would be a solution for such cases. I consider that medicine could act as a band-aid, yes, they might help to minor symptoms or be a support, but they are not the real healers. The body, the mind and the spirit are the ones that will act on healing. Take this as an opinion, and always bring up the questions to your health specialist.
Here I would like to share fragments of the website Loner Wolf, who dig deeper in what is Shadow Work and how to do Shadow Work.
Please note: Shadow Work exercises should not be undertaken if you struggle with low self-esteem. Exploring your demons will likely make you feel a million times worse about yourself and may spiral into self-hatred. Before doing Shadow Work, I strongly and emphatically encourage you to work on Self-Love. Shadow Work should only be undertaken by those who have healthy and stable self-worth, and a friendly relationship with themselves.
How to do shadow work?
There are many ways to practice shadow work. Some of the most powerful and effective techniques include journaling, artistically expressing your dark side (also known as art therapy), using a mirror to connect with this part of you (mirror work), guided meditations, exploring your projections, and examining your shadow archetypes.
Why anxiety and depression are still on the rise Worldwide?
To have a bit of more awareness of the trends of how much people are searching for terms such depression and anxiety, I checked up Google trends.
There were couple things that caught my attention. First of all, that the search for anxiety and depression where on the rise from 2017 to 2022. Of course this graphic has overall different topics and it doesn’t mean that the people who where searching for anxiety or depression had those conditions, but it can be a reference of the rise on awareness in anxiety and depression.
Another aspect that got my attention was how in the map it can be sees that mainly the western countries are colored red, which is the search for anxiety. In contrast, eastern countries were mainly blue colored, therefore depression was mainly searched.
As well you can see in the following images of the carousel, I searched for the terms in different languages, such as “depresion” and “ansiedad for spanish, “depressão” and “ansiedade” for portuguese, “Депрессия” and “anxiety” for russian and “うつ” and “不安” for japanese. For each of the different speaking regions had as well their mainly predominant search term, where in latin america the term for anxiety is most search, and in contrast russian and japanese speaking countries had more predominance on the term related to depression.
Questions will come up, is the current mental health systems worldwide really working that people have to search online for this terms?
Is really humanity moving forward on properly handling not just mental health, but health in general, that people rely on the internet to find solutions?
What might be the root causes that western countries are searching for anxiety and eastern countries are searching for depression? Relgion, food, lifestyle?
And therefore, if you are searching on how to help a friend with anxiety or depression, what moved you to that? Are you worried about your friend, or it might be the case that even for yourself? Of course. Or it might be as well that the “expert” knowledge that you are getting is actually not helping, or it have helped, but just a little and there is still something missing and can’t figure it out.