Here in the UK we’ve now had six weeks of lockdown and self-isolation. Some people are learning to adjust to this new normal fairly well, whereas others may be feeling it’s getting harder as the time goes on.
I’ve had a couple of questions this past week around how best to support someone who you sense might be silently struggling at the moment.
Some people are open to discussing their feelings whereas others don’t feel so comfortable for a variety of reasons: they may not want to worry or burden others, they might not like showing their (perceived) vulnerabilities, they may prefer to try and ignore their feelings and put a brave face on it, or perhaps they just don’t know how to ask for help and support.
There are a number of ways to tackle this; One of the easiest ways being just to ask someone if they are okay. Many people will be more open to this right now what with people generally checking in on one another.
If you feel that might be too direct, you could suggest a chat and start by sharing how you’re feeling which may encourage them up to reciprocate — if you share something more vulnerable first, they may feel safer and more trusting in opening up as well.
You could also mention an example of how someone else you know has been struggling to try and break the ice for them to open up, especially if you describe someone struggling with something that you sense they might be also struggling with. This may help to normalise what they’re experiencing and help them realise it’s totally normal and not something to hide or feel ashamed of.
Or as the saying goes, honesty is the best policy — so something along the lines of; “Are you okay, I’m a little worried about you?”, or “I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I’m sensing you might be struggling at the moment, are you okay?”, or “ You don’t seem your usual self at the moment are you alright?”.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that they may need you to simply listen rather than offer advice. So, I recommend asking first if they would like to hear your opinion.
If you still don’t get anywhere, you could mention all of things you’ve been doing to keep yourself buoyant and feeling healthy, connected and as worry-free as possible — they might not say anything at the time but it could be that you have planted a seed and they may try or look into what you mentioned at a later date.
It’s also worth remembering here that helping others makes us feel good too. I love this quote by Gordon Hinkley:
“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
And now is the perfect time to do that (where it is safe to do so of course), that can be as little as asking someone if they are okay, listening and offering friendly advice, doing the shopping for a neighbour or family member if they are in self isolation or too vulnerable to leave the house or even volunteering in the NHS if that is something you feel called to do.