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31st August 2017

A How-To On Offering Support

Having a supportive team in times of crisis can make all the difference in the world.

Everyone – at some point in their life – will experience times of difficulty, a period of hardship.

It could be an unexpected illness, a family bereavement, a separation or even a job redundancy.

Whatever the circumstance may be, you can be sure that somewhere along life’s journey we will all face an obstacle in our path.

Some of these events can take a long time to recover from and some of them can seriously, and dramatically, impact both your personal and work life.

Just under two years ago I had one of these experiences.

I was returning from a trip to visit friends in London and was feeling a bit run down. I put it down to the time of year – it was, after all, the beginning of November which meant the beginning of the cold and flu season.

I was feeling pretty rough but I figured I would be back to normal in a week or two.

Twenty-four hours later I found myself on an operating table undergoing a six hour emergency operation; an operation that saved my life. After which, I ended up having to stay in hospital on IV antibiotics for almost a month.

I’m retelling this story, albeit briefly, as an illustration of how support can have at such a huge and lasting impact during traumatic times and how essential I believe it is in aiding the recovery process.

I’d like to use my experience to illustrate the different ways that we can support each other through life’s challenges.

1. Send messages of support

Within hours of finding myself in hospital, my work team immediately rallied around me and I had a flurry of texts from my colleagues sending me supportive messages.

I was, physically speaking, totally out of action, and I didn’t know for how long.

Without having even to ask, all of my anxieties, work responsibilities and financial concerns were immediately allayed through texts messages.

Having such a supportive team around you in times of crisis can make all the difference in the world.

Sending a text of support to someone may seem simple and insignificant, but to the person receiving it, the message can be hugely impacting.

So I would encourage us all to invest in the relationships that surround us, in both our personal lives and in our places of work.

2. Empathise

At times of stress, your emotions can be very unpredictable.

Your moods can change quickly and you can suffer with elevated levels of anxiety. During these times, someone who can empathise with your situation can really make a difference to you being able to accept and manage these difficult times.

It’s important to remember that people can deal with trauma in very different ways.

It could be the very first time they have ever experienced a particular ‘life event’ such as a difficult divorce or a family bereavement and they may need continual reassurance and understanding from those around them.

There is no ‘right way’ of processing these events, no one-solution-fits-all method for coping with the array of different and unpredictable emotions that can manifest themselves.

So another really helpful way in which we can show our support is to be understanding of this; to show empathy.

‘Laugh with your friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down’ – The Message
When you’ve been through it yourself, you can empathise all the more.

3. Offer your time

“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” – Rick Warren

Time is such a valuable resource.

During my month in hospital, laid up in bed, I had so many visitors.

Some of these friends and colleagues visited me time and time again. Even if you’re not in the middle of a traumatic life event, we all know how stressful, busy and tiring day to day living can be.

I’m pretty sure that after a long day at work and after having had to deal with all the stresses of the day, that sometimes the last thing my friends and family would have wanted to do was to come to a hospital (again!) but they came.

And it meant so much.

For me at that time, and for many others who may be going through similarly difficult experiences, it was – and is – a real act of kindness, a sacrifice, and a undeniable show of support. Time is such a valuable resource.

4. Offer some practical support

When people go through difficult times sometimes they just don’t have the energy or the will to do the daily, weekly or monthly tasks that need doing.

Just offering a helping hand is another lovely way to show your support. It doesn’t have to be something hugely dramatic.

There are so many simple ways that we can show practical support. Why not help out with a bit of gardening? Or you could offer to walk the dogs one evening. Maybe cook an extra meal each night and drop it off?

5. Listen

After I’d left hospital and I started on the road to recovery I imagined that, apart from my body taking time to heal, I would pretty much be back to normal.

That wasn’t the case at all. Anyone who has experienced trauma in whatever guise knows that the emotional fallout can be very dramatic and long lasting.

I suffered from anxiety for at least 6 months after the emergency operation and at times during this period found myself in a very fragile state indeed.

The one thing that really helped during those times were people who listened; people who listened to my worries, my concerns and my fears. Sometimes they offered really helpful advice, sometimes they offered reassurance, but sometimes they just listened.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

Be someone who listens with the intent to understand, to understand why someone is feeling the way they feel, that way you can be a real source of comfort in times when it is really needed.

Thank you for reading this blog and it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway!)… thank you for your support!

This blog was written by David Westcott for Inspire Me.

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