How to Care for Yourself When Your Loved One Is Depressed

How to Practice Self Care While Supporting Someone with Depression

 

When our loved ones are struggling with depression, we want to do everything we can to make them feel better. At the same time, it's also important to take care of ourselves. Here are some tips for nurturing your own well-being when you are living with someone who is depressed.

 

Set boundaries. It's important to understand that it is ok to say no to someone who is depressed. Although your loved one may be having trouble managing his or her life, it doesn't mean you should take responsibility for that person’s actions or well-being. Decide how you can help, and then leave the rest undone. Many times, it can actually help a depressed person when you insist that they shoulder the responsibility for their lives. When possible - not during significant breakdowns - make it clear that you are not here to fix everything.

 

Practice mindfulness. When they are trying to help depressed loved ones, it's common for people to feel anxiety and worry. Studies have shown that we can reduce feelings of anxiety and mental stress by practicing mindfulness. This means focusing on the present without ruminating about the future or brooding about the past. If you find your mind drifting away from the here and now, try to focus on your breathing or senses to bring yourself back into the present moment.

 

Don't buy in. While it's not necessarily contagious, a loved one's depression can cause you to experience sadness and cognitive distortion. When this happens, we tend to focus on the worst possible outcomes, while viewing the world in all-or-nothing extremes. Try to recognize that these thoughts are only exaggerations. Avoid catastrophic thinking and stop worrying that things might not ever get better. Simply focus on the moment with an eye toward stacking positive moments that add up to good days and, eventually, good weeks, months and years.

 

Encourage them to get help. Hopefully, your loved one is willing to seek therapy for his or her depression. If not, try to encourage this by suggesting that he or she go to one or two sessions, just to try things out. Many times, people have irrational fears about therapy that keep them from seeking help. When they actually experience a therapy session, however, they tend to realize that these concerns are unfounded. By getting your loved one to take one simple baby step, you may be setting him or her on the path toward a happier life.

 

Get help for yourself. A loved one's depression can cause you to feel trapped, fearful and overwhelmed. You may feel that you have lost the person you used to know and love. You may also feel frustrated or burdened, and then experience guilt about these natural feelings. To maintain your mental and emotional well-being, consider seeing a therapist yourself. This will give you a safe and healthy environment in which to vent. A qualified therapist may also be able to give you some expert suggestions on how to best help the depressed loved one in your life.

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