What to Say to Someone Who Is Struggling Emotionally

Home » Mental Health Blog » What to Say to Someone Who Is Struggling Emotionally

It’s so difficult to see someone you love going through a challenging time and hurting emotionally. You want to fix it for them, even though you know you can’t. And often, you find yourself at a loss. What can you say or do to help them? Here are some ideas of what to say to someone who is struggling emotionally.

Understanding Emotional Struggles

When a loved one is struggling emotionally, they’re having difficulty managing and coping with emotions, and it’s impacting their well-being and daily functioning. These struggles often manifest in various ways, impacting thoughts, behaviors, and physical health. Emotional struggles can arise from a range of sources, including stress, trauma, mental health disorders, or challenging life circumstances.

So, how do you know for sure that a loved one is struggling emotionally and you aren’t just reading something into the situation that isn’t there? You can look for the signs.

Common signs of emotional distress include:

  • Persistent sadness or depression
  • Unexplained irritability or anger
  • Mood swings that seem disproportionate to the situation
  • Withdrawal from social activities or isolation
  • Sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or other risky behaviors
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Discussing persistent negative thoughts or excessive worry
  • Talking about feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Expressing feelings of guilt or shame
  • Being overwhelmed or unable to cope
  • Experiencing panic attacks or anxiety
  • Conflicts in relationships
  • Difficulty communicating or expressing emotions
  • Loss of interest in maintaining relationships

Approaching a Loved One in Emotional Distress

If it seems pretty clear that your loved one is in emotional distress, you’ll want to approach them. But how do you do that? How do you create space to have a conversation about what they’re going through and your concerns for them?

Choose the Right Time and Place

If someone is experiencing emotional distress, they probably already feel out of control. You don’t want to bombard them and add to those feelings. Instead, you want to find a time when the two of you can talk in a private, quiet setting where you won’t be interrupted. Don’t do it when either of you has other plans or obligations. Instead, schedule a time where you have plenty of space to talk.

Express Concern

Start the conversation by expressing your concern in a nonjudgmental way. Use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory, such as “I’ve noticed you’ve been looking really down lately, and I’m worried about you.”

Listen Actively

It doesn’t do any good to have the conversation if you aren’t fully invested. In fact, it could even make them feel worse. So, if you’re going to discuss your concerns with them, you want to give them your full attention when they choose to communicate with you. Put away distractions like phones or other devices. Listen without interrupting, and show empathy through your body language and responses.

Offer Support

Clearly you care about this person, which is why you took the uncomfortable step of approaching them about your concerns. Show that caring by asking how you can help and offering specific ways you might support them. You may want to even think about what you could do for them in advance to have an idea of what you might say here. 

Be patient and let them know you’re there for them, even if they aren’t ready to talk or take action immediately. 

Don’t Make It About You

It’s important to empathize with your loved one and their feelings but remember not to make the discussion about you. Yes, you may have gone through something similar in your life, but that doesn’t mean you understand how they’re feeling. Each person processes emotions and experiences differently. 

Also, try not to take it personally or get upset if they don’t want to open up to you or accept your offers of assistance. You’ve done your part by expressing your concerns and offering to help.

Encourage Professional Help

You want to help your loved one, but that doesn’t mean pretending you have all the answers. If you think your loved one could benefit from mental health assistance, suggest it. You can even offer to help them find a mental health professional to see.

What to Say to Someone Who Is Struggling Emotionally

When speaking to someone who is struggling emotionally, it’s important to be supportive, empathetic, and nonjudgmental. Here are specific examples of words and phrases you can use to offer comfort and support:

  • “I’ve noticed you seem really down lately. I’m worried about you.”
  • “It seems like you’ve been having a tough time. How are you feeling?”
  • “I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds really hard.”
  • “I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you, but I’m here to listen.”
  • “I’m here for you. If you want to talk, I’m ready to listen.”
  • “You don’t have to go through this alone. What can I do to help?”
  • “It’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling. Your emotions are valid.”
  • “It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed, given what you’re dealing with.”
  • “Have you thought about talking to a therapist or counselor? They might be able to help.”
  • “Seeking help from a professional can make a big difference. I can help you find someone if you want.”
  • “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you, no matter what.”
  • “It’s okay to ask for help. Everyone needs support sometimes.”
  • “Whenever you feel ready to talk, I’m here to listen.”
  • “If you ever need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to me.”
  • “I’ve been thinking about you. How are you holding up?”

How to Help a Loved One in Emotional Distress

Even if a loved one doesn’t seek professional help or doesn’t take you up on your specific offers of assistance, there are some things you can continue doing to show them support and love during this challenging time for them. 

Consider supporting your loved one by:

  • Assisting With Daily Tasks. Help with chores, running errands, or taking care of responsibilities they might find overwhelming. You can offer to do this or just do it when you stop by to check on them.
  • Preparing Meals. Cooking nutritious meals for them can relieve some stress and ensure they’re eating well. Again, you can offer to make their meals, or you can just stop by and fill their fridge. 
  • Providing Transportation. Offer rides to therapy appointments or other important engagements.
  • Being Present. This probably isn’t a situation where you have a single conversation and everything is fine. Instead, you’ll need to show up regularly for this person. Sometimes just being there physically can provide comfort. Spend time together, even if it’s in silence.
  • Engaging in Activities Together. Getting them active will go a long way toward making them feel better, even just temporarily. Do activities they enjoy or find relaxing, like watching a movie, taking a walk, or engaging in a hobby.
  • Encouraging Healthy Habits. Suggest and participate in activities that promote well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature.
  • Promoting Self-Care Activities. Encourage activities that promote self-care, such as reading, taking baths, or practicing mindfulness. Sometimes just getting out of bed and taking a shower can feel like a huge step, but it makes a big difference.
  • Providing Resources. Share information about support groups, hotlines, or mental health services, but remember not to do this every time you see them or to push.
  • Assisting with Finding Professional Help. If they want mental health support, help them research therapists, schedule appointments, or navigate insurance processes.
  • Reducing Stressors. Help minimize stressors in their environment, whether it’s reducing noise, keeping the space tidy, or creating a relaxing atmosphere. This could be something as simple as bringing them their favorite candle or a cozy blanket.
  • Staying Connected. Regularly check in with calls, texts, or visits to show ongoing support. Again, it’s not a one-and-done conversation. Your loved one likely needs ongoing help to pull out of this situation.
  • Giving Space When Needed. There’s a fine balance between helping and bothering or attempting to control. Respect their need for space and alone time, ensuring they know you’re available when they’re ready.
  • Being Patient. Recovery and coping take time. Be patient with their progress and avoid pushing them too hard.

All Counseling Is Here

You hate to see someone you love struggle. Helping them find the professional mental health assistance they need is a huge step. All Counseling’s therapist directory can help. You can search for qualified therapists to fit your loved one’s needs, including searching by location and insurance accepted. All Counseling is here to help you assist your loved ones in need.