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In a fast-paced world where productivity is praised and feeling anything less than great almost always gets swept under the rug (or even frowned upon), it’s so easy to look at the next person and presume that they’re doing fine. In reality, we all have days when we aren’t feeling our best, and sometimes we just need to be reminded that it’s OK to take a step back and ask for support.
Whether it’s a friend, loved one, or colleague who’s going through a difficult time right now, below are some tips and a whole bunch of examples of words of encouragement you can use to help you lift some weight off their shoulders.
Clinical psychologist and reality therapy instructor Katrina Vandenbroeck, M.S., recommends getting into a listener mindset for the conversation, similar to what she does with her own therapy clients.
“In preparation for each session, I see to it that I am in the right mindset and that I am not distracted by the other things around me,” she tells mbg. “I prepare my physical environment by choosing a quiet and isolated space with minimal to almost no distractions to help the client feel that my full attention is on them.”
Make sure you receive what they share with the respect and urgency it deserves.
Vandenbroeck also recommends reassuring the other person that you’re not there to judge them. “It is important not to think ahead of a client or to create assumptions about their situation based on our previous experience with other clients or even with our own personal experience. It helps me a lot to focus only on the information that the client is sharing with me and to focus solely on them in the moment so that I can give them a chance to safely unpack all that they carry with them before deciding what to do,” she explains. “Sometimes, just listening without judgment and being fully present is what they need, and that is more than enough.” 
After listening, communicate that you hear them and give them the chance to identify and express the kind of support that they need for their situation, Vandenbroeck recommends. She shares these questions you can ask when you’re unsure of where to go next:
Vandenbroeck recommends asking open-ended questions to allow this person to freely express what’s on their mind and heart. “I give them a chance to evaluate what is most urgent for them at the moment and begin with that,” she says.
She adds that, rather than offering direct advice for what to do next, she simply helps the person evaluate and think through their options. “I think by constantly encouraging my clients to evaluate their situation and their opinions, they become more empowered and clear with what it is that they want to work toward,” she says.
If you have the capacity for it, you may offer continuous support. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to communicate this and help seek other options. “When I have concerns that I know are beyond my skill set, I inform them and refer them to other support systems,” shares Vandenbroeck. “I ensure that they are aware of other alternative channels for support so that they are comforted by the idea that they are not alone.”
For us regular folks, that might just look like encouraging your friend to see a therapist if it makes sense for them, offering phone numbers to local mental health hotlines, or otherwise just offering your continued support in the coming days and weeks.
If you’re not sure of what else to say, may this compilation of quotes for various life situations inspire you.
(Here’s our full list of positive affirmations for more inspiration.)
Words are powerful tools for achieving a positive outcome, especially when paired with understanding and compassion. A simple “I’m here for you” can be enough to keep someone going.
But this also won’t always be the case. Don’t be afraid to seek help too when faced with more complex situations involving someone struggling with their mental health or someone battling depression. And remember, to be a pillar of strength, you need to look after yourself too.
Marj Ostani is a self-developing artist and storyteller producing feminist-centric works in BIPOC communities. They have a bachelor’s degree in film from the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manilla, Philippines, and their works have been published in Next Shark, Bitch Media, Archer Magazine, Bobblehaus, The Scoop Asia, and more. Marj Ostani Studio is on a mission to build a community of artists centering women, queer, and non-binary stories through conscious creative expression.
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