7 Simple Ways to Support Your Friend During a Hard Time

Let’s cut to the chase: your friend feels bad and, being the good-natured person that you are, you want to help them dig themselves out of their predicament. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds — one minute you’re confident they’re going to make progress and reclaim their motivation for life, the next, you’re handing them a box of tissues while they soak up the tears that have rolled down their cheeks. If this sounds like you and you want to “get your friend back,” here’s how to get started.

1. Get Out of the House

Our negative feelings and emotions often attach themselves to physical locations and items inside our homes. Whether it’s a picture of a lover or a room filled with past experiences, these areas dictate our mood and cause us to turn inward.

However, getting into new environments stimulates our subconscious mind and forces us to adapt and mold our feelings to meet the requirements of the situation. A beneficial side effect of this situation is that it crushes our preconceived notions and temporarily removes unwanted thoughts from creeping into our minds. Over time, this kickstarts the healing process.

2. Provide a Safe Space for Venting

Sometimes we need to let out our negative emotions. Similar to holding in a sneeze or ignoring an itch inside our nose, bottling negative emotions can cause physical discomfort and bring strong individuals to their knees.

The next time you visit with your friend, allow them a few moments of “me” time. In essence, this means you sit back, grab a drink and allow them to speak uninterrupted. As a rule of thumb: listen more than you communicate. When your friend accurately labels and illustrates why they’re upset, they equip themselves with the mental tools and strategies to overcome their hardships.

3. Perform Their Mundane Tasks

When we have days where we feel like the world is crumbling around us, getting out into the city and “adulting” feels like mild torture; your friend feels that way, too. For this reason, we suggest running small, trivial errands for them so they can stay home and, for lack of a better term, vegetate. And if they’re too prideful to tell you what it is they need completing, here are the typical go-to errands they’re most likely to appreciate:

  • Arrange Dinner for Them
  • Handle Grocery Shopping
  • Pick Up Their Dry Cleaning
  • Walk Their Dog
  • Take the Trash Out to the Street
  • Mow the Grass
  • Pick Up and Sort the Mail
  • Handle Car Maintenance
  • Take Their Children to School

You would be surprised how elated your friend will feel, knowing you’ve checked off 4 or 5 tasks from their “to-do” list.

4. Sweat It Out

Exercise and eating healthy are, without a doubt, mother nature’s personal anxiety and stress relief medications. When we’re feeling blue and don’t know where to turn, getting under some weights or, conversely, elevating our heart rate is a sure-fire means of kicking depressive feelings to the curb.

The reason this occurs is related to our body’s natural production of feel-good chemicals — oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. We won’t lie, these neurotransmitters produce effects in the body that could fill a 500-page textbook, but their main mechanism dictates how we “feel” throughout the day. After we exercise and push through a grueling session, these chemicals pump through our system and produce a natural euphoria that melts sadness and anger like a hot knife on butter.

5. Laughter Is the Best Medicine

While nothing in life is guaranteed, we’re pretty sure it’s impossible to feel upset and laugh simultaneously. Knowing this, let’s use it to our advantage and put our friends in situations where they’re inclined to chuckle.

And by laugh, we mean the deep belly laugh that causes us to wheeze like an aquatic animal and contorts our abdominal muscles into a cramp-induced balloon animal. Heading to a funny movie, standup night at a bar or watching hours of YouTube videos is the best remedy for a bad mood.

6. Let Them Know You Are Always There

In times of discomfort and mental anguish, it feels like you’re in the middle of a treacherous sea, paddling your hardest with no help in sight. If you want to lend a helping hand to your confidant, check their status in regular intervals.

No, we don’t mean a 2-minute phone call at the end of the day; we mean daily phone calls — even multiple — with engaging questions, hearty laughs, and insightful comments. While this may seem overly simplistic, knowing someone is nearby in their moment of agony can be a lifesaver!

7. Time Block Their Sadness

Lastly, we encourage you to schedule sadness. Yes, you heard us correctly — put a date and a time on your friend’s unsavory feelings. We won’t lie, this process will feel awkward at first, and you may even chalk it up as too good to be true.

However, a brilliant behavioral skill is allotting a time and a place to “feel” your negative emotions and sensations of despondency. When our brains know they can freely let go of anxiety and stress without being judged, it fills our minds with a sense of calm and relaxation that’s unrivaled by other techniques or supplements.

As you can see, being a reliable and noteworthy friend means more than having a social relationship with a person — it means going above and beyond to ensure their happiness. By following these easy-to-implement tips and strategies, you’re ensuring that your friend has a positive and reliable support system to navigate the ups and downs in their life. And who knows: today, you’re helping them deal with their setbacks; tomorrow, it could be yours.



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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