The Mighty Logo

14 Ways To Help Someone Facing a Mental or Physical Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

A common question to ask when someone is facing physical health issues or is feeling anxious is, “What can I do to help make things better?” To take the guesswork out of it, I’ve compiled a list of the top 14 things that people have done for me that helped me keep my head above water on the days I needed it most. Hopefully there’s a few good pointers in here to take home to your own loved ones! 

1. Understand their triggers and how they react to them. 

Do not de-legitimize their reactions by saying they are “drama queens” or that they’re overreacting to a situation. Their experiences are valid. Don’t compare their experiences to someone else’s experiences or your own. By understanding what their triggers are — whether it be a person, place or thing – you can help them avoid those triggers.

2. Make them a nice home-cooked meal. 

Cooking and eating healthy meals can be hard if you’re running on empty. Oftentimes, when I’m not feeling so well, I tend to eat a lot of take-out or not much at all. Offering to cook a meal can help your loved one focus on other tasks needed to move forward with their lives. You can offer to make it with them as a social experience or alternatively, bring them some of your own leftovers. 

3. Offer to help clean their home. 

Wash some dishes, do a load of laundry, take out their garbage and recycling, water their plants or clean their bathroom for them. Tiny acts of kindness go a long way when your mental or physical health has you drained.

4. Encourage them to get out of the house.

Go on a walk around the block with them, take a leisurely bike ride, go roller skating, go to the gym, take a yoga class together or better yet, put on a cheesy workout track and dance around the house for a few minutes. 

5. Help them run errands.  

Getting out of the house with mobility issues or even mental health issues can be overwhelming and stressful. Sometimes, having someone to run errands with helps ease the anxiety that comes with the hustle and bustle of the busy world. It can also help keep them on track, especially when brain fog or memory issues are a concern. 

6. Provide a soothing environment without too much stimuli. 

Avoid crowded places, loud noises, etc. Quiet, calm spaces like a park, a garden, a library or a spa are ideal. You can always just stay home with them and make tea, too. 

7. Encourage them to channel their emotions into something creative.

Art can be therapeutic! Paint, craft, sew, bake, build, etc. Make it an activity you can do with them together or that they can do themselves.

8. Don’t keep them up too late.

Sleep is important to recovery. Lack of sleep can cause mental and even physical health problems to get worse. Encourage a healthy sleep schedule. 

9. Help them stick to a routine or schedule.

My therapist and I found that tracking my progress helped. I made a chart and ticked off each time I ate a healthy meal, got exercise, took my meds, slept etc. Tracking your moods is also a good idea. This information can be used to help your loved one at their doctor appointments explain how their illness is affecting them and if they are making progress.

10. Encourage them to use healthy coping mechanisms instead of drugs or alcohol.

11. Don’t make them talk about their problems. 

When they’re willing to do so, they will. Forcing the subject can actually exacerbate mental health concerns. If and when they open up about it, let them know you’re there to listen.

12. Encourage them to see a doctor.  

If you have time, you can go with them to their appointments or just offer them a ride there. Sometimes, going to see a doctor in itself can cause anxiety, but it’s a necessary step toward healing. Having someone to go with can help take the edge off. 

13. If your loved one is prescribed medication, look out for them, especially during the first month or two.

New medication may take some time for them to get used to. Finding the right medication can be a long, distressing process. But in the end, hopefully they’ll find one that suits them. I’ve had to try over 30 different medications before I found the right one for me. This process took an agonizing seven years. And most importantly, encourage your loved one to stick to their prescribed dose. If they quit, don’t let them do it cold turkey — they have to ween off of them or they may experience adverse side effects.

14. Don’t leave them alone for too long.  

You’re not their babysitter, but too much time alone allows for bad thoughts to come creeping in. Make time for them. Let them know they are loved, valued and that they matter. Even if it’s just a phone call. The little things show you care.

GettyImages via Grandfailure

Originally published: October 11, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home