9 Thoughtful Ways to Help Someone Going Through a Tough Time

Whether it's due to family stuff, a lack of self-confidence, a breakup or something entirely different, it's never easy when someone close to you is struggling.

You're not a mind-reader, so you have no idea what'really going on in another person's head. And, based on your own life experiences, you may not relate to what they're going through.

But don't worry—if you feel like a useless support system, keep reading for the nine best ways to help someone going through a tough time:


1. Be Empathetic

Sometimes, the hardest part of going through a rough patch is feeling like you're all alone. By expressing empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) and consistently offering to lend a listening ear, you're showing you're in-tune with what someone is experiencing. Whether you've been down their path or not, by letting them know their emotions are justified and that you'd feel the same if you were in their shoes, they'll find comfort in knowing they have your support—and this will likely make them want to open up to you more.

Peter listening to Lara jean

(To All the Boys I've Loved Before via Netflix)


2. But Don't Make It All About You

As fine as it is to go back to when your parents went through a divorce or when you went through a bad breakup, you must remember that, right now, is about someone else. It's totally okay to reflect on how you felt during those difficult times, but if you go down a rabbit hole of rehashing everything that went wrong during your dark days, you need to shift your focus. Going back to No. 1, focus on the feelings, not so much the events. The person you're trying to help needs to find you relatable to their emotions.


3. Do Something Thoughtful for Them

Depending on the nature of what someone's going through, they may or may not want a lot of attention surrounding them. Some people want all the distractions in the world, while others want quietude. Once you feel out a person's predicament, doing something thoughtful for them (on a large or small scale) will, without question, boost their spirits. If they love Chinese food, have some delivered to their house or offer to bring some over; if they love the movies, surprise them with two tickets to something they want to see; if they want to be around people, surprise them with an all-day outing with other friends. Heck, even just a bouquet of flowers or a simple succulent shows you care.

Meg and Hercules

(Hercules via Walt Disney Productions)


4. Give Them a Genuine Compliment

Listen, regardless of whether we're happy or sad, we're always down for a compliment—a real compliment, that is. If someone you know is struggling, giving them a little pep-talk is sure to lift their spirits. Distract them from their woes by reminding them of something positive you associate with them. Whether it's something deep, like they're the best listener or the most trustworthy, or it's something more surface, like they have the best style or dewiest skin, a genuine compliment is always appreciated.


5. Respect Their Space—If That's Really What They Want

Everyone handles hardships differently. Some people need a shoulder to cry on, while others like to process things by themselves. While it may seem like the obvious reaction to be at their doorstep or on the phone with them around the clock, if they specifically ask for space, respect their boundaries and give it to them until they express otherwise. It doesn't mean you can't check in via text every now and then, but it's wise to avoid overwhelming them with your presence.

Hailee Steinfeld drinking a slurpee all alone in The Edge of Seventeen

(The Edge of Seventeen via STX Entertainment)


6. Avoid Using the Word 'Should'

We all like to play therapist when someone close to us is going through tough times, but we need to keep in mind that no two situations are exactly the same, and just because you handled something a certain way, doesn't mean it will work out identically for someone else. It's fine to offer up suggestions or reference your past experiences, but avoid telling someone they "should" or "shouldn't" do something. At the end of the day, the decision is up to them and what they feel is right for their circumstance.


7. Instead of Asking How They Are, Say You're Thinking of Them

When someone's battling personal obstacles, asking them how they are causes them to dredge up the cause of their turmoil—especially if they're at the peak of it. While it's certainly thoughtful of you to inquire, a gentler way to show you care is to simply tell them you're thinking of them. The non-invasive gesture can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it doesn't require them to rehash any hard times. Their reply may be minimal, but their appreciation—whether expressed or not—will be great.

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser: Sierra at the table holding her phone

(Sierra Burgess Is a Loser via Netflix)


8. Remind Them That What Goes Up Must Come Down—and Vice Versa

When sadness is at a peak, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and feel like things will never get better (we've all been there), but assure the person that, as the law of gravity explains, what goes up must come down—and that applies to the other way around, too. Nothing stays up or down forever. So, while right now feels at its lowest point, they can only go up from here.


9. Remind Them of Something They Have to Look Forward to

No matter what, there's always at least something to anticipate. Whether it's on a smaller scale like the release of a fave artist's new album, or bigger, like a vacation or birthday, it's quite rare when literally nothing remotely exciting is looming. And if it does happen to be a time when things seem especially slow, help the person create something to look forward to. Encourage them to get a fresh haircut or color; help them shop for a killer new outfit; plan a weekend road trip for just the two of you. Having something on the horizon that they'll enjoy will keep them thinking positive when they're feeling down.

two pretty friends taking a selfie in a bikini

(via Shutterstock)


Right now tends to be a time when people feel a bit down. Click HERE if you or a friend have been hit with a case of the winter blues.