How to show up for people (and yourself) right now

Some soul medicine for our pandemic-filled, tech-mediated, slightly f*cked up age

It’s safe to say that 2020 has not been easy so far. That makes it more important, and more challenging, than ever before to show up for your people. Finding it difficult? We’ve got you covered. By Emma Irving.

If you’re having trouble connecting with those around you, know that you’re not the only one. A 2018 Pew Research Centre Survey found that 1 in 10 US adults was lonely “all or most of the time”. Then 2020 happened, and we all know how that’s turned out. There’s nothing in all the big wide virtual world that can replace a hug and a cup of tea, and even sending a care package might have been a challenge due to delivery or financial difficulties. 

So we’ve tried to come up with some soul medicine for our pandemic-filled, tech-mediated age, which will hopefully help you chart a course to more thoughtful and fulfilling connections with those around you during a really f*cked up time.

Got your own suggestions? DM them to us and we’ll include them – that way the guide will be continually updated to reflect what’s working for everyone right now.

For that friend who struggles to open up…

I think showing up is about being more mindful of the current moment, which means considering that people might be worried about money or generally emotionally taxed. 

One easy way to sense what’s going on without asking someone directly is taking notes whenever you do chat to them. It sounds a bit creepy but it makes it so much easier to remember what people have going on in their lives and be mindful of their circumstances. 

Group dynamics…

Hosting a socially distanced picnic or a Zoom hangout? Think carefully about your invite list. It sounds totally obvious, but you and the people around you will feel more comfortable and willing to express their vulnerabilities if they feel like they’re in a supportive atmosphere.

People don’t need to know each other, but they should ideally be on the same wavelength. There’s absolutely a time and a place for throwing yourself in at the deep end and meeting people outside your comfort zone, but mid pandemic may not be one of them.

Suddenly reassessing your personal relationships?

Ever read Frientimacy, by Shasta Nelson? You should. 

She talks about the different layers of vulnerability that exist within friendships. The longer you’ve known someone and the more you’ve experienced together, the more vulnerable you’ll probably be with that person (duh, right?). 

Over lockdown, it can feel really weird and isolating to realise that some of your friendships rely on proximity. But that’s actually no bad thing – you don’t have to talk to someone all the time, and in difficult situations, for that relationship to be meaningful. I found myself drawn to the people I find particularly nurturing or who share interests with me that we could continue over lockdown (e.g. books and films), but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love those friends I have a wild Friday night with. 

Right now, a lot of us are analysing what our life (and those in it) really means to us. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have everyone close to you all the time. It’s not about settling – lockdown may make you realise that some of those friendships need to be changed or left behind. But it IS about grace: offering yourself and others compassion and forgiveness, even if you’re not 100% convinced you or they deserve it.

A fail proof guide for how to talk to someone who’s struggling

We all probably know someone who is struggling right now, whether because they’ve lost someone, their job is in peril, or they’re overwhelmed with anger at police brutality. It can be hard to know what to say to that person, but there is an answer: read up on Ring Theory.

The idea is that when something traumatic happens, you draw a ring with the person it happened to in the middle. Then draw a ring around that with the person closest to the central figure’s name in that ring. Continue with each stage of friendship, with more distant friends in more distant circles. 

Here are the rules. The person in the centre ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings. 

As the LA Times puts it…  

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the centre of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.””

Remember to show up for YOU too

You might normally meditate every day or work out like Adonis, but have you found that sometimes you just don’t have the energy to do it at the moment? That’s ok. Did you have a shower? Did you eat something? Is your house clean enough to live in? Maybe that’s enough for now.

It can be hard sometimes to work out if tasks are necessary for your happiness or if they’re becoming just another thing on the to do list. So give yourself the time and space to be able to just focus on getting up and getting by. Self-improvement is great, but in times of immense stress then survival is really what we’re after. You’re obviously not going to feel normal right now – the world’s not normal, so why on earth would you be?

This weekend, create a little encyclopaedia of you.

Write down compliments or kind words you want to remember; mantras or quotes that move you; things you really like about yourself; some lovely memories; what your values are (aka, those things about you that seem unchanging, significant and close to your heart). Think of it as a little scrapbook of the soul, a simple way to stay grounded when the world around you feels out of control.

Remember that you are still here, and that you are enough. 

Reading Lists

If you’re in a position to, try to get your mitts on one of these books…

💕 Frientimacy, by Shasta Nelson

💕 The Art of Showing Up, by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

💕 Here To Make Friends, by Hope Kelaher LCSW

💕 Friend-ish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion, by Kelly Needham