Active Listening BlogYou’ve heard this before, but listening – really listening – is important. We don’t mean to be thoughtless, but everyone is busy, on to the next task, and we rarely take time to actively listen. With active listening, sincerely focusing on our friend’s words is something most of us could do better, since we’re often so eager to talk we are only halfway listening.

While half-listening or multi-tasking may work most of the time, usually it means we do each thing less well! Consider there are times when you or other caregivers suffer from anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness – just like those they care for and about. It’s sometimes simpler to isolate yourself, or withdraw from normal activities than to put on the mask of “I’m okay” when you’re not. Have you watched a friend do this and been concerned?

Science and studies tell us that even the strongest people can be deeply distressed. But science also tells us that belonging, connection, and communication make a difference. Military families are experts at flexibility and adapting, all of which are positive skills. Yet, they are also experts at pretending things are fine – because that’s what they’ve learned to do.

Make a plan to look out for one another. If you notice a friend or acquaintance is withdrawn, unusually worn-looking, and acts with hopelessness, talk with them. Ask them to do the same for you. It’s important that you also reach for help when you need it – people are usually glad to help. They are grateful you trust them and need them. Connection, belonging, feeling needed – these are sources of strength.

One of the best ways to help yourself may be to help others. Connecting, listening, and caring help us to feel stronger, yet trust yourself if you feel it right to suggest professional help. Supporting one another to call a helpline or visit a counselor is both smart and beneficial. Wonderful resources are available with people who care and who understand, including caregiver peers. Keep the VA helpline, Vets4Warriors, PsychArmor, or other helpline available – help is there when we need it.