Rough patches, while a part of life, aren't easy. It can be especially painful to watch someone you love suffer through a difficult time. It's understandable that if your girlfriend is hurting or depressed, perhaps because she lost a loved one or was fired from her job, you want to help. Regardless of what your girlfriend's exact circumstances are, keep in mind that while you can't take away her pain, your support can help her heal.
It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who is going through a rough time. Rather than having the perfect words to comfort, it is more important that you listen to your girlfriend. When a person is feeling emotional, being heard can reduce negative emotions and have a calming effect, notes according to the HelpGuide.org website. Be sensitive to the situation and encourage your girlfriend to share her feelings. Listen without interrupting, and don't offer advice, unless she asks for it. Let her know that you're hearing her by giving her your undivided attention -- and by nodding as she speaks and keeping your eyes on her. Don't judge or criticize what she is saying, instead, validate her feelings.
If your girlfriend doesn't feel like talking, you're physical presence alone can be a comfort. Put your arm around her, hold her hand or draw her close. She may sit in silence or she may cry, which can release negative emotions. Those who have support while crying, report more emotional release than those who cry alone, according to an article on the EverydayHealth website. If your girlfriend asks for some space, respect her request. Everyone heals at their own pace, so be patient as she heals.
When someone is going through a rough time, everyday tasks often fall by the wayside. Take note of what your girlfriend needs and help out. For example, you could go to the store and buy groceries or take her dog for a walk. Ask her if there is anything specific that you can do for her.
Take Care of Yourself
Helping your girlfriend through a rough patch can be stressful for you -- and too much stress can affect your own health. Don't let your own needs get pushed to the side. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise. Try to make time for activities that you enjoy and spend time with your friends. You need to meet your own needs to have the energy required to be of help to someone else, notes HelpGuide.org. If you aren't rested and healthy, you won't be of much help to your girlfriend.
Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.
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