The holidays are a particular time to be with family, friends, and loved ones. The hustle of the season can get in the way of taking the time to connect with those who matter to you most. We want to share this with you because we acknowledge that mental health is just as important as physical health. Here are five things you can say that will let your family and friends know you care.
I’m here for you if you need to talk
Everybody’s got baggage. But it’s not a good idea to drag around a suitcase packed with personal problems and baggage from the past. It’s hard enough to keep up with the stress of everyday life without dealing with excessive negative emotions.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a certified counselor or therapist to help your loved ones deal with stress and anxiety. Whether you are close friends, family members, or co-workers, these simple words can help you support someone who is struggling: “I’m here for you if you need to talk.”
This phrase is almost always appropriate and helpful because it gives your friend or family member permission to open up to you when they need help dealing with their emotions. You’re telling them that they don’t have to hide their feelings if they don’t want to and that you’ll be there for them if they do want to talk.
When people feel like they can’t open up, they often bottle things up until they explode in an emotional outburst. This can be incredibly destructive because of how it affects them and because everyone around gets caught in the fallout. If you’re there for them as a sounding board, then it may make all the difference in the world.
You’re a great mom/dad/spouse/friend
You’re a great mom/dad/spouse/friend. You mean so much to me. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.
These are all common statements we hear at various times in our lives, especially during the holiday season. However, what is the meaning behind these statements? Why do we say them? What are they trying to tell us?
When someone says, “You’re a great mom,” they may be trying to tell you that you’re a good parent, that you’re doing an excellent job with your child or children, or that you’re an amazing, caring person for taking care of your child(ren) and putting them before yourself. When someone says, “You mean so much to me,” they might be telling you that you’ve been in their life for a long time and have played an essential role in their life–perhaps even more important than most people have played in their lives. When someone tells you, “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had,” they might be saying that they value and appreciate you more than any other friend they’ve ever had.
How can we use these statements as positive affirmations when we hear them from others? There are a few ways:
Say it back.
This experience must be hard for you
Often, when we hear that something is hard for someone, we think it means it’s a difficult situation. But it can also mean you understand what someone is going through.
The first meaning isn’t always the best choice, especially when talking to someone you know well because it can come across as condescending. When you say This must be hard for you, you’re assuming the person’s experience and not letting them speak for themselves.
When you want to express empathy, try saying That must be hard for you instead. It shows that you acknowledge how someone feels without telling them how they should feel. You can even say It must be hard for you without making any assumptions at all. It leaves room for others to explain their own experience and lets them decide what’s hard about it.”
What can I do to help?
One of the best things you can do to help someone suffering is to say, “What can I do to help?”
When someone you love has a problem, the last thing they want to hear is, “It’s all going to be OK.” While you want to be empathetic and supportive, there’s a fine line between being helpful and making matters worse.
Instead of offering empty encouragement, try asking: What can I do to help? This question shows that you care. It’s better than saying nothing at all. And if you’re asked this question, it also gives you a reason to think about how you can make a difference.
Saying what you can do helps your family and friends feel more supported. They will appreciate that you are ready to help when the time comes.
Saying what you can do helps them feel more in control of the situation. You may be able to reduce their anxiety by offering practical suggestions.
Saying what you can do helps you feel more in control, too. If your loved one asks for support or ideas, then it may allow you to ask them questions and learn what is really going on.
How are you doing today?
My favorite thing about the holidays is that it’s a time to show you care. It’s important to me that I’m spending time with my family and friends and letting them know I care about them.
One of my favorite ways to do this is by saying, “How are you doing today?” It may surprise you to learn that this simple question has the power to make people feel genuinely cared for.
You might think that asking, “How are you doing?” is a way of checking up on someone or trying to start a conversation. But research shows that these questions don’t actually help us learn how people are feeling, and they certainly don’t make us feel better.
When we’re asked how we’re doing, our brains take in that information and filter it through our own experiences. In essence, we tell ourselves how we’re feeling based on how we think other people expect us to be feeling. As a result, the person asking the question never gets an accurate response anyway.
Voice tone is key: When you ask someone “how they’re doing,” do it with a genuine interest in their answer. You’ll want your voice tone and facial expression to match your intent, so they know you want to know how they’re feeling.*
So stop putting off those plans—stop waiting for the right opportunity to come along. And start telling your friends and family members how much they mean to you right now. Of course, this is easier said than done. It might be intimidating to open up or awkward to do so without warning. And maybe you’re not entirely sure where to go from here once the conversation gets rolling. But there are some ways to make it a little easier and a lot less scary.
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