Loving Someone With Depression

Loving Someone With DepressionSometimes relationships start with an awareness of a partner’s current or past struggle with depression, and a good idea of the challenge the couple is entering into. Other times, the depression doesn’t exist or isn’t obvious until much later down the road. And, as was the case in my relationship, sometimes a couple may think they know the challenges that lie ahead in facing depression, but in reality the couple is not prepared for the effects of such a pervasive and consuming disorder. Depression can have such a strong manifestation in so many aspects of an individual’s life that it is not hard to imagine the impact it can have on relationships. Not only in dating or marriage relationships, but family relationships and friendships as well. Often the person helping a loved one through depression has not experienced depression themselves and can be at a loss for what to say or do to be helpful. The following is a list, adapted from thedarlingbakers.com blog, of some practical ways you can  help a loved one through depression:

  1. Minimize clutter in their environment – sometimes when a person is in a depressed state, everyday tasks like sorting mail or washing dishes can seem overwhelming and may start being avoided. Feeling unable to keep up with life can create chaos in the person’s environment, leaving them feeling even more overwhelmed. By helping out with dishes, or laundry and keeping clutter at bay, you can help a person with depression feel calmer and more prepared to deal with their emotional state.
  2. Make your loved one a healthy meal – when life starts to seem overwhelming, few people have the energy to prepare a good meal. Junk food, fast food and tv dinners are easier and quicker to obtain. Some people will take the opposite approach and simply skip out on meals altogether. Ironically though, when struggling with a mood disorder, healthy eating is even more important. Helping your loved one take care of their body can assist in giving them the energy they need to combat depression.
  3. Go outdoors with your loved one – though getting up and out may not be something they have any desire to do, moving and feeling sunshine can have a positive impact on a person’s internal state. Studies have shown links between exercise and mood elevation, and between Vitamin D production (stimulated by the sun) and alleviation of depression. A short walk or a picnic can be a fun and beneficial activity for your loved one.
  4.  Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling. Having your loved one articulate what they are going through can be helpful for both of you. Sometimes it may help determine a course of action. Minimally, sharing the experience may help to alleviate feelings of loneliness that often accompany a mood disorder such as depression.
  5. Encourage them to focus on self-care – taking care of ones’ self when depressed can be difficult. Neglecting to take care of ones’ self in turn plays a role in increased feelings of negativity and worthlessness. By being proactive with reminders and opportunities to care for themselves (“I’m going to do the dishes, why don’t you relax with a nice bubble bath?), you can help your loved one feel “normal” and healthier while also promoting their self-love.
  6. Hug them – studies have shown that a sincere hug lasting longer than 20 seconds can elevate levels of “feel good” chemicals in the brain. A good hug can be a mood booster for both you and your loved one.
  7. Laugh with your loved one – in the midst of depression it can be hard to experience laughter and difficult to even imagine things ever being funny again. Laughter, however, releases endorphins which can play a role in counteracting symptoms of depression and anxiety. Engage in activities that promote laughter together – watch a comedy, tell a silly joke, play a fun game.
  8. Reassure them that you can handle their feelings – a lot of feelings can arise in a person during depression and amongst them will often be a concern for the fate of their relationship because of the illness they are facing. Let your loved one know that you are in this with them, and you won’t be scared off by their condition.
  9. Challenge destructive thoughts – if you’ve ever been close to someone with depression, you’ve probably encountered at least a few claims that seem to be hopeless, self-defeating and usually downright wrong – “No one could ever love me.” “I’m a loser.” “I can’t do anything right.” Counteract these statements with truths that suggest otherwise – “I love you.” “You are successful at _.” “Diane says you are really good at _.”
  10. Remind them why you love them – in the midst of depression, it can be difficult to recall  happy times or remember that people care. Tell your loved one things you like about them, share favourite memories, reflect on positive things that have happened in your relationship.

These tips are all very helpful, nonclinical ways to help a spouse or friend through depression. Its important to remember that supporting your loved one through their struggle is most successful when paired with clinical support. A meeting with a family doctor is usually the best way to get started.

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About Elim

Elim Counselling Services is a Christian Counselling ministry that provides professional counselling for individuals, couples and families. If you are not familiar with Elim Counselling and your first contact with us is online, we would be happy to hear from you. To book an appointment or make an inquiry please contact us by calling (613) 699-1677 or by email at mhart@elimcounsellingministry.com. All inquiries are treated with the strictest of confidence.

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