How to Help Friends Through an Emotional Crisis

Avoid telling your friend that you know how she feels.
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Part of your role as a friend is helping your counterpart through emotional upheaval. It may be an uncomfortable, overwhelming and exhausting process. Preparing yourself with techniques to help her through the crisis will alleviate some of your stress and offer her some comfort, as well. Allowing your friend to process her feelings and emotions and connecting her to necessary resources are much needed during a time of immediate crisis, according to the National Association of Social Workers.

1 Listen and Support

Hear what she has to say and remain non-judgmental, suggests the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center. Your friend may need to cry, laugh, be silent or repeat her concerns multiple times. Normalize and validate her feelings -- what she is experiencing may not be pleasant, but there is no 'wrong' way to feel. Your presence and willingness to accompany her through the crisis are the most meaningful forms of support.

2 Offer Assistance

Ask what you can do to help., an online resource for young adults with mental health issues, states that this question can be left open-ended or can be extended with suggestions. Your friend may appreciate you calling her family, feeding her cat, running errands or helping with transportation. Helping with practical, concrete chores can help her feel less emotional stress.

3 Offer Physical Comfort

Breathe with your friend. It is common for people in crisis to hold their breath or take shallow breaths, according to counselor Debbie L. Whittle. Taking slow, deep breaths will enable greater oxygen intake, which will then help her feel less anxious. You can also ensure that your friend's basic needs are met, states Whittle. Your friend should be as rested, nourished and hydrated as possible. Furthermore, she may appreciate a hug or a squeeze of the hand. Be sure to obtain consent first, however, as people in crisis may sometimes feel edgy or hyper-vigilant. Touch may exacerbate anxiety in these situations. If this is the case with your friend, provide a blanket or some other comfort object instead.

4 Know Your Boundaries

Avoid the temptation to solve your friend's problems or fix her life, advises Whittle. She will be able to resolve matters with the appropriate time and resources. Refer her to a counselor or therapist, and check in with her regularly. Continue to ask what she needs and inquire about any progress with the referrals. Be aware of your own limitations, too. If you find that your responsibilities or your emotional well-being are being neglected due to your dedication to your friend, you may need some distance from her in order to care for yourself.

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.