How to Help a Loved One Who is Struggling with Their Health
Posted on 12 December 2020 by Leonie Satori
When we have a loved one, friend or family member struggling with their health, be it addictive behaviours, motivational problems, lethargy, or lack of self-care, it is easy to go straight into rescue mode.
Those who are programmed to help others, find it difficult, and as a practitioner, I often see this with my clients. When you know you have the skills, the experience, the contacts and the tools to help a loved one, it seems reasonable to suggest that sharing this with your loved one is the best way to help them. But this could not be further from the truth.
We all go through our stuff, hit rock bottom, indulge in self-destructive behaviours, get ourselves stuck in dysfunctional relationships, hang with the wrong crowd. It all comes with the adventure of life, this is part of our growth and learning, and sometimes, when we see a loved one struggling, when we see them in one of these kinds of situations, it is our lessons that have brought us to this place. Yeah, read that bit again, so it sinks in.
How do I know this? Well, I have been there too, I was in a situation where I couldn't help a loved one, no matter how hard I tried or what kind of techniques I used, it seemed like, the harder I tried, the worse they got. The rescuer in me was stumped.
Since moving on from my situation, I learned about myself, my stuff and how to better communicate in relationships. By no means do I claim to be an expert**, but I am on the way to better understanding how to help a loved one who is struggling with their health.
The typical situation when I see this happening is often with my clients, who have come full circle with their health; they have found balance and happiness with healthy food choices, are physically active and have reached a point of good health and well being. Then, they notice that their loved one has been moving in the opposite direction. Maybe they are drinking or eating, way more than they should, perhaps they are in ill health and choosing to do nothing about it, maybe they are struggling emotionally with grief, loss or sadness.
A heart-wrenching and challenging situation. For most, we will draw on our skills and knowledge to help, provide them with solutions, remedies, suggestions and a wealth of ideas on how they can get themselves back on track. Sound familiar?
The urge to help can be overwhelming; it can become an obsession, trying to help your loved one to get through what they are going through. Sometimes, even with the purest intentions, your help and advice are not of any value.
It can be exhausting trying to help a loved one who is struggling with their health. Giving so much of yourself to help another will drain your resources, emotionally and physically. Eventually, you can become resentful, and you can start doing things that you would not normally do, and begin with some negative behaviours towards your loved one. It is natural and normal to feel rejected, to feel ignored and unloved, especially when you spend a great deal of your time trying to help your loved one through their struggles.
Do you remember going through some struggles yourself? It might have been in your young adult days when you were a teen, or even more recently. One thing you may recall is that no matter how much useful information presented to you and no matter how many people tried to help you, you just weren't ready to do the things that they suggested. You were unprepared to help yourself, and you were not receptive to suggestions, advice or any help.
It makes sense then that expending all of your energy, to help your loved one to get through their challenges can be detrimental to your health, and practically, not the best use of your skills and energy.
So, what then?
After you have exhausted all of your resources and tried everything that you can to help you loved one, it is time to listen and be available for them to lean on when they need.
The first thing is to draw in your energy and focus on yourself, ensure that you are getting the basics right: good food, physical activity, sleep and quality time in nature and with your friends and family. You need to prepare yourself and be strong enough to help your loved one when they are ready.
The next thing is, to be honest. I know it sounds overly simplistic, but hear me out.
You need to find a time when your loved one is responsive, look them in the eye and explain to them that you have noticed that they are struggling, but you don't know how to help them.
Next, let them know that you are concerned about their wellbeing and will be ready for them whenever they are ready to open up or ask you for help. It is essential to understand that what your loved one is going through may be unrelated to you. There may be nothing that you can do to help your loved one, other than to love and be ready. Most importantly, let your loved one feel your love, without criticism or judgement.
Perhaps, this may be all that is required for a loved one to realise that they are supported and valued. In other cases, it takes time for them to reach out and have the courage to turn things around for themselves.
Giving suggestions or ideas, judging, putting together exercise routines, booking appointments with health practitioners, clearing an easy path for your loved one to get through their struggle can seem like the best thing to do. Still, often, this is not helping, but hindering their progress.
Being responsive and ready to listen, really listen, without judgement, without suggestions, without standing on higher ground, without sharing your knowledge, without providing a solution to their problems may be one of the hardest things for you to do.
It takes some time and courage to be able to allow all of those things (suggestions, ideas, solutions) to slide away so that you can be clear, supportive and accommodating.
I know it's hard.
Often it is part of our journey to learn that we have no control over another person's decisions and what we want them to do, for their well being, is more about what we want for them. Understandably, you want your loved one to be happy and healthy, but wearing yourself out to make them happy doesn't serve you or your loved one well.
Allow any judgement, suggestions or solutions to slide away.
Be open. Be honest. Be present.
**Please remember that this information is from my personal experiences; and not intended as professional advice. If your loved one seriously needs some help, or if they are a threat to themselves or others, then it is necessary to get them or yourself some help. Services such as Lifeline provide 24-hour crisis support via phone.
About the Author
Leonie is the owner of Sundala Health and brainchild of the Sundala Signature range of products. With a passion for women's health, botanical perfumes and a down-to-earth approach to health, Leonie guides her clients through health challenges, to help them reach optimum vitality.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.