10 ways to support a friend through a tough time

If your friend is going through a tough time, it can be worrying and hard to know what help to offer them. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with how to provide the ‘right’ help to a struggling friend. Whether they've opened up to you, or you’re hoping to reach out, here are some tips to help you decide how to support them.


Here are 10 ideas of how you can support your friend during a difficult time

1. Check in with them

Please don't wait for your friend to reach out when they're struggling. Check-in with them through calls, texts, or an offer to visit to show that you care and are thinking of them. Even a simple "Thinking of you today, how are you doing?" can make a big difference.

2. Listen with empathy

Sometimes, all your friend needs is a listening ear. Be fully present when they want to talk, without interrupting or judging. Validate their feelings by saying things like, "That sounds tough” or “I remember you told me you were upset about ___ last week. How are you feeling about it now?”

Try not to interpret their situation to make it seem better, as this usually just makes the other person feel alone in their situation. A great way to look at this is “sitting in the mud” with someone. If you want to help lift someone’s mood, allow them to talk first, and then when they’ve been listened to, you can gradually transition into doing something uplifting.

3. Give them support on their terms

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with how to offer the ‘right’ help to a struggling friend. You may wonder whether to talk to them about the difficult situation they are going through, or instead offer a pleasant distraction. A great question is “Do you want to talk about it, or would you prefer to be distracted?”

If your friend doesn't want to talk, do not pressure them. Giving them some space can help them open up to you or someone else when they're ready.

Not everyone can bring themselves to answer the “how are you” question, so if in doubt, you can always ask your friend directly. “Hey, I often text to ask how you are when I want to support you. Does that make you feel supported, or add pressure to explain how you are? If so, would you prefer I send you (stupid jokes) instead?” Allow your friend to guide you in what helps them the most.

4. Offer practical help

Depending on the situation, your friend might appreciate practical assistance. Offer to run errands, help with household chores, babysit children or accompany them to appointments. Small acts of kindness can go a long way in easing their burden.

5. Respect their boundaries

You may want to be supportive, but it's important to respect your friend's boundaries. If they prefer solitude or don't want to talk about their problems, give them space without taking it personally. Let them know you're available whenever they're ready to reach out.

6. Make low-pressure invitations to do enjoyable things

Find low-pressure versions of the activity they enjoy (i.e. would you like to go to the cinema, and we can leave at any time if you’re not feeling it?)

Give them options for those low-energy days, such as (“Would you like to come chill on my sofa, and I’ll make us some dinner?”) or (“Is it easier if I come to you?”)

7. Respond kindly if they aren’t up to an activity

If they can’t face seeing you or going somewhere, you can respond with kindness (“Hey, it’s fine, I completely understand. Take care of you and I’ll check in on you tomorrow.”) or (“That’s OK, would you prefer we stayed in and watched a film instead, or do you want to leave it for another time?”)

8. Help them seek professional support

If your friend's situation requires professional help or specialised support, offer to assist them in finding resources. This could include therapy, support groups, helplines, or community services. You can’t help them with everything, but you could support them to access the help they need.

9. Do healthy-ish things together if possible

Foremost, nobody wants to be nagged about their health during a crisis. And sometimes a night of chocolate and wine is exactly what someone needs.

But we also know that taking care of the body can help us sleep better and cope better. So instead of telling your friend to ‘prioritise self-care’, perhaps invite them for a walk with you and a coffee. Or offer to cook dinner for them and make something hearty and nutritious, like a curry, chilli or stew. There’s no need to tell them that you’re choosing healthy things, in fact, it’s probably better if you don’t mention it.

10. Practice patience

Healing takes time, so be patient with your friend's process. Understand that they may experience ups and downs, setbacks, and moments of vulnerability. Offer your support consistently, even when progress seems slow.

In addition to these tips, I’ve added two extra just for you.

Take care of yourself, too

Supporting a friend through tough times can be emotionally draining, so remember to take care of yourself. Set boundaries, seek support from others, and practice self-care to prevent burnout. Remember they are ultimately responsible for supporting themselves through this situation, so please don’t sacrifice your own health to keep someone afloat.

If you are finding yourself taking on too much responsibility for a friend, or struggle with people-pleasing, you might benefit from hypnotherapy to find a good balance of being supportive, without rescuing them.

Lastly, please don’t beat yourself up if your support is not enough to bring your friend out of their difficult time

Ultimately, it can be worrying to support a friend through a tough time, and you may second-guess whether it’s enough. Trust yourself that your presence, empathy, and willingness to help will make a difference in their journey through a tough time. It’s often the little things that help us the most and knowing that you are there for them is the most important thing.

I hope this article helps to give you options on how to help your friend through a hard time. Just knowing that you are looking for ways to support your friend tells me that they are lucky to have you. Take care of yourself and give yourself some grace for doing your best.

If you or someone you know would benefit from the support of a therapist, I offer both Zoom therapy and an in-person practice in Surbiton, Surrey. You can book a free consultation call with me via Hypnotherapy Directory.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Surbiton KT6 & Brighton BN1
Written by Abby Garrard, BSc, UKCP | Accredited Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist
Surbiton KT6 & Brighton BN1

I specialise in anxiety-related concerns, including self-esteem, confidence, public speaking, imposter syndrome, and perfectionism. If you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed, I can help you find a way forward that works for you. I am a professional, accredited, and insured hypnotherapist. I offer a free 30-minute phone consultation.

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