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7 Ways to Ask for Emotional Support

Tips for giving and receiving help when you need it the most.

Key points

  • Research has shown that anxiety and depression symptoms increased during the early months of the pandemic.
  • The pandemic brought higher stress and a greater need for support, but many are afraid to ask for help.
  • Everyone needs emotional support from time to time, and the process of giving and receiving it can be beneficial for both sides.
Source: Madrolly/AdobeStock

As a nation, our mental health is suffering. The pandemic has brought to the surface both new stressors or highlighted underlying concerns. In my therapeutic practice, I’ve been conducting several corporate webinars per week on promoting mental health, reaching tens of thousands of participants. In my anonymous polling, attendees in different industries across the country overwhelmingly reported they are in the greatest need of emotional support.

It’s not surprising that the higher our stress level is, the more self-care and support we need to be balanced and well. According to a study¹ conducted during the height of the pandemic, 40 percent of U.S. adults were struggling with their mental health or substance abuse. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and contemplating suicide rose considerably compared to that same period a year prior. The pandemic has increased our stress and significantly decreased our ability to access support in the same ways we did in the past.

You Deserve Emotional Support

What does it say about our society that we are all in need of more emotional support? It means we are at risk of burnout. I’ve been there. As a caregiver, I was more comfortable taking care of others. I neglected myself and became exhausted and depleted.

Barriers to accessing support include lack of trust, not feeling deserving, and fear of imposition or rejection. Studies² found people tend to underestimate if others will comply with their requests for help by as much as 50 percent. I had to do a lot of work on myself to open up to receiving the love, support, and prosperity that we all deserve and is available to us. Recognizing I needed help and then asking for it allowed me to welcome support into my life.

What Does Your Support Network Look Like?

Consciously assess and nurture your support network like a garden. Plant seeds for new relationships, nurture the ones with people you love and weed out toxic relationships that are no longer healthy for you.

Ask for the types of support you need from the people in your support network who are capable of providing it. You wouldn’t go to a bakery and order a steak or you’d end up disappointed. So, ask the people who are capable of providing emotional support for what you need.

Seven Tips for Giving and Receiving Emotional Support

Giving and receiving support are two sides of the same coin. These seven tips show you how to give and receive more emotional support.

How to Give Emotional Support

  1. Check in with loved ones on a regular basis. Ask how they are doing and ask other open-ended questions.
  2. Be present. Look at loved ones in the eye and avoid multitasking while with them. Give them time and space to share what’s on their mind.
  3. Provide empathy, not judgment. Connect with your heart and relate on an emotional and feeling level. Reflect understanding of how they feel and normalize and validate their feelings.
  4. Ask how you can best support them. Don’t problem-solve, offer unsolicited advice, or assume you know what they need. Remember, everyone has a different way they prefer to receive support (love language).
  5. Keep your word. Maintain personal integrity and follow through with the promises of support you have made. This facilitates trust.
  6. Be thoughtful. Remember what is going on in their lives and provide well wishes and encouragement. By doing so, you demonstrate genuine care and concern.
  7. Follow up. Circle back with them and repeat these steps. The closer and more important the relationship, the more frequently you should circle back.

The other side of the coin is asking for more emotional support when you need it the most.

How to Receive Emotional Support

  1. Check in with yourself at least once a day, and ask yourself what type of support you need. There are different types of support including emotional, community, spiritual, financial, help with tasks, or friendship or family connection.
  2. Move past barriers that are in between you and the support you deserve. These may include fear, pride, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, learned helplessness, hopelessness, or irrational beliefs such as seeking help is a sign of weakness. Care enough about yourself to ask for what you need.
  3. Identify who in your support system might be able to provide this type of support. If you do not have somebody, consider counseling or therapy, or support groups. You may also ask people in your life to help you find others to help meet your needs.
  4. Use assertive communication to find your voice and ask specifically for what you need. The following are examples of using assertive communication to ask for what you need:

    “I am going through a funk and need you to check in with me once a day.”

    “I just need to vent about work and need somebody to listen. Do you have 15 minutes later today?”

    “I need a hug.”

    “I need help with the laundry. Can you do two loads?”

    “It would be really helpful if you would make me a healthy meal.”

  5. Express gratitude for the support you received. Thank people for their time and love. Tell them exactly what they did that was so helpful and why. This will fill their cup.
  6. Consider how you might be able to provide this person with support in the future. Relationships should be mutual and reciprocal in support. You’ll feel good giving back when they need you the most.
  7. Repeat. Asking for the support you deserve is a life practice that must be cultivated and tended to consciously daily.

As humans, we are interdependent and interconnected. Helen Keller was right when she said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” We are in this together and we can support one another through times like this. Using these tips will make it easier to give and ask for support. You must care enough about yourself to welcome the support you deserve.


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