How to Help a Friend Who Feels Hopeless
Do you have a friend who is going through a tough time, and is fighting anxiety and feelings of worthlessness and despair? Do you want to “be there for him” but are not sure what to say or do? Here are some ways how to help a friend who feels hopeless—and be the light and lifeline that he needs now, more than ever.
Listen in a Non-Judgmental Way
Sometimes, people just need to talk and cry it out. They have bottled their feelings for so long, and tried to pretend that they’re fine or strong.
So, it is a big comfort and relief for someone to say, “Let it out all out, I’m here for you.” It gives them permission to let their guard down, and say anything without fear of being judged.
When this happens, resist the urge to jump in with advice, or cliche phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” or “You have to count your blessings.” It’s more important to just listen, and acknowledge the person’s feelings.
Help With Everyday Tasks
Depression and hopelessness can be both emotionally and physically exhausting. Your friend may find it challenging to keep up with everyday routines and responsibilities.
So, one way how to help a friend who is hopeless is to help with small chores or tasks. Offer to take the kids for the afternoon so they can have “Me Time”. Make a hot pot of soup, or pack meals they can reheat when they’re feeling too low to cook.
Helping out also gives you a reason to visit frequently, so you can check in how they’re doing. Some people may not be ready to have a “big talk” but they’ll open up little by little during conversations you have while cleaning the house, or sharing a meal.
Get Your Friend Who Feels Hopeless Outdoors and Moving
Exercise and sunlight can help with depression, according to Harvard Health. However, many people who feel hopeless would rather stay home alone the whole day. Consequently, your role as a friend is to convince them to go out.
Say, “I know you don’t feel like it right now, but can you take a walk with me?” Or make up an excuse to get them outdoors, like checking out a big sale or walking the dog.
If you can, make this a regular activity. Even low intensity exercise can help release endorphins, help lower stress, and improve sleep. All of these affect mood and your friend’s ability to cope with problems.
Celebrate Accomplishments and Victories
Someone who feels hopeless will hyper-focus on failure and other negative experiences, and then believe that life will always be this way. As a friend, you can remind them that while the situation is bad, it is neither permanent nor an indication of who they are as a person.
Let’s say your friend lost his job, and feels discouraged by a fruitless job hunt and constant rejection letters from companies. Remind him of his strengths and skills. Recall past successes, and how he overcame obstacles before.
Create Positive Opportunities for Your Friend Who Feels Hopeless
One of the best antidotes to hopelessness is experiencing that you are loved, capable, and needed. Your friend needs opportunities to remember that feeling, and they’re not going to get that if they stay at home alone and wallow the whole day.
Think of some ways your friend can become more involved in the community. Can they volunteer with you for a charity or cause? Can they give you advice on a project that you’re working on?
Maybe your friend can learn a hobby or activity that will help them rediscover their talents or gifts. Invite them to take a class or workshop with you, or give them a hobby kit that you think they will like.
Provide Unconditional Support
The key word is “unconditional.” No matter how frustrated you may be with your friend’s words or behavior, you shouldn’t make them feel that you’re putting them down or giving an ultimatum.
Never say, “You’re being stupid. Stop acting like this/talking about this.” Or, “You’re not the same friend I used to know. Why are you doing this to yourself? I don’t know you anymore.” Or, “I’m sick and tired of seeing you this way!”
While these feelings come from a place of worry, your friend will interpret them as an expression of disappointment or even anger. It’s important to let them know that your support is unconditional: “No matter what you do or say, you can’t push me away.”
On this note, you also have to pay attention to your own reactions and feelings. If you feel that you’re being too sucked into your friend’s feelings of hopelessness, take a step back to breathe and re-center yourself—you need to take care of yourself, so you can take care of others.
Look For Danger Signs in Your Friend Who Feels Hopeless
Someone who is feeling hopeless is at risk for suicidal thoughts or behavior. It’s important to look out for red flags, such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns, phrases like “I don’t want to be a burden”, withdrawal from people, extreme mood swings, etc.
If you suspect that your friend is at risk for self-harm or harm to others, step in. Bring your friend for counseling or other professional help, or call a hotline to ask for help.
Suicide risks must be taken seriously, and no matter how you help a friend who is hopeless, chronic depression or other mental disorders need professional intervention.