Struggling with anxiety and/or depression isn’t an easy thing to do, and I know many of our loved ones don’t exactly know how to help. That being said, I would really like to encourage you to avoid making excuses for us.
Fairly recently, I was talking to my mom about how messy my house had gotten again. I said, “I am so sick and tired of struggling like this. I mean, I know what I need to do. I know how to fix the issues but it’s just so hard to do what needs to be done.”
My wonderful, amazing, caring mother then said to me, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I mean, I don’t know many people who are handling four kids on their own without help from anyone.” Guess what I did? I sat down on my butt and I said, “She’s right. This is too hard so why should I try?”
My mom was not trying to make me stop. She was trying to help me to be more kind to myself which is a great thing. But rather than making excuses for me, there are quite a few things I wish she could have/would have said instead.
So for those of you who love someone who struggles with some of the cycles I’ve discussed regarding mental health, let me give you an idea of some things you can say instead of making excuses.
1. “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”
While this one does definitely have its place, and we do all sometimes need to be reminded to forgive ourselves and to give ourselves grace, it can be damaging as well. We all need to be hard on ourselves sometimes. If we just fall over and say, “This is too hard,” nothing will ever get done.
Worse yet, we will never meet our full potential. So next time someone is telling you they want to improve their life and they are at a point where they hate where they’re living, offer up some encouragement instead. Maybe try something like, “How can I help you make it better?” Or even, “Do you want to brainstorm some steps to move in a more positive direction?”
2. “It’s Not Your Fault.”
Never tell someone, “It’s not your fault”, if you’re not completely sure it isn’t. I can cast blame on other people SO easily, when really I just need to take some responsibility. So instead of helping others pin their blame on others, why not help them see it for what it is in a kind light?
“We all make mistakes, it’s what we do afterwards that matters,” can be a great line. You might also try something such as, “We can’t change what’s already happened, but how can I help you to go forward?”
3. “As Long As You’re Doing Your Best.”
The truth is, very few of us are ever truly doing the absolute best we can. There is always room for improvement. I can’t tell you how many times I have confided in someone about something I am struggling with and they’ve responded by saying, “As long as you’re doing your best, that’s all that matters.”
But the fact is, I’m not doing my best. I don’t even know how to do my best. Yes, I know of some things I am sure would help my anxiety and my depression. But some days I am just focusing on surviving and I completely purposely ignore those things in an effort to accomplish something else.
So while yes, I would love to say I am doing my best at blogging, being a mom, being a wife, and being a servant of God, I can’t. And you probably can’t either. So why not drop the cliche and try something a little more honest such as, “I know you’re working really hard at this”?
4. “I’m Amazed At How Well You Do Handle Everything.”
This one may be a great way of admiring someone. But it is not a great way to respond to someone on the verge of shutting down. While I certainly get the meaning behind it, this comment sparks an inner voice that says, “Yeah. I’m already doing a lot. I deserve to slack on this.”
In reality, that’s not true. Just because I spent time cooking a great meal, doesn’t mean the dishes are suddenly going to wash themselves. In fact, I’m almost positive they won’t. And I’m also positive that they’re a lot easier to wash before all of the food gets stuck on them.
So just because I handled dinner is not an excuse not to handle clean up as well. Rather than giving someone permission to stop what needs to be done because of prior success, try something such as, “You’ve done so well already, I know you can handle that little bit!” Or, “I’ve already seen how hard you can work, just keep going, you got this!”
To Make It All Short and Sweet
Quit making excuses for those you love and start encouraging them to do and be better. Don’t give them permission to quit but show them you have confidence in their ability to do more.
Leave the control up to them, but let them know you fully believe in their abilities to succeed. Even better, offer to help them out along the way in whatever way they may need.