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Annie Reneau

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6 alternatives to saying 'let me know if you need anything' to someone in crisis

If someone is drowning, you don't wait for them to ask for help. You just take action.

People going through major struggles don't always know what they need or how to ask for help.

When we see someone dealing with the loss of a loved one or some other major life crisis, it's instinctual for many of us to ask how we can help. Often, the conversation looks something like this:

Us: I am SO sorry you're going through this. What can I do to help?

Person in crisis: I honestly don't know right now.

Us: Okay…well…you let me know if you need anything—anything at all.

Person in crisis: Okay, thank you.

Us: I mean it. Don't hesitate to ask. I'm happy to help with whatever you need.

And then…crickets. The person never reaches out to take you up on the offer.


Was it that they didn't really need any help, this person going through a major life crisis? Unlikely. As sincere as our offer may have been, the problem may be that we didn't really offer them what they actually needed.

One of those needs is to not have to make decisions. Another is to not have to directly ask for help.

When a person is in a state of crisis, they can feel like they're drowning. They might be disoriented and fatigued, and doing anything other than keeping their head above water long enough to breathe can feel like too much.

If someone is drowning, you don't ask them what you can do to help or wait for them to ask. You just take action.

Here are some specific ways you can take action to help someone who you know needs help but isn't able or willing to ask for it:

1. Make them food

It may be tempting to ask if you can make them a meal and wait for them to say yes or no, but don't. Simply ask if they or anyone in their household has any dietary restrictions, and then start shopping and cooking.

Meals that can be popped in the refrigerator or freezer and then directly into the oven or microwave are going to be your best bets. Include cooking or reheating instructions if it's not obvious. Disposable aluminum trays are great for homemade freezer-to-oven meals and can be found at just about any grocery store. Casseroles. Stir fried rices. Soups. Comfort foods.

If you don't cook, you can buy them gift cards to local restaurants that deliver, or give them a DoorDash or UberEats gift certificate (large enough to cover the delivery, service fees and tip as well, which combined can be as much as a meal sometimes).

lasagna in the oven

Easy-prep meals people can throw in the oven are great.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Even better—organize a meal train

If you want to make it a community-wide effort and no one else has done so yet, set up a "meal train," where different people sign up for different days to bring meals to spread out the food help over time. There are several free websites you can use for this purpose, including Give In Kind, Meal Train, and Take Them a Meal. These sites make it super easy for anyone with the personalized link to sign up for a meal.

someone scrubbing a pot in a kitchen sink

There are always dishes to wash.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

2. Clean their kitchen and/or bathrooms

Kitchens are always in use, and keeping up with dishes, especially in a house full of people, is a challenge even under normal circumstances. Same with keeping the refrigerator cleaned out. Same with cleaning the bathroom.

Rather than asking if they want it done, as many people won't want to say yes even if they would appreciate the help, try saying something like, "I want to come and make sure your kitchen is ready for you to make food whenever you want to and that your bathroom is a clean space for you to escape to whenever you feel like it. Is Tuesday or Wednesday at 1:00 better for you?"

The fewer complex decisions a person in crisis has to make the better, so saying, "Is this or that better?" rather than offering open-ended possibilities can be helpful.

woman folding clothes

There is always laundry to fold, too.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

3. Do laundry

Offer to sit and chat with them, let them vent if they need to…and fold their laundry while you're at it.

Are they the kind of people who might be embarrassed by you seeing or handling their underclothes? Fine. Wash, dry and fold towels or bedsheets instead. Just keep the laundry moving for them.

And if it doesn't feel appropriate or desirable for you to do their laundry at their house, you can offer a pick-up laundry service, either yourself or an actual hired service. Tell the person to put bags or bins of laundry at the door and you (or the service) will come pick it up and bring it back clean and folded the next day. That's a great way to be of service without feeling like you're intruding.

man pulling food and toilet paper out of the car

Offer to pick stuff up when you're on a grocery run.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

4. Run errands for them

"Hey, I'm heading out to the store, what can I grab you while I'm there?" is always a welcome phone call or text. Let them know when you're going to be running your own errands and see if there's anything they need dropped at the post office, picked up from the pharmacy, or anything else.

You can also offer to run errands with them. "Hey, I've got some errands to run. Do you want to join me?" They may have no desire to leave the house, or they may desperately want to leave the house, so be prepared for either answer, but the offer is solid. Even just not having to drive might be a relief if they have things they need to pick up or drop off places.

woman holding hands with a small child as they walk

Caring for someone's kids is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

5. Provide childcare

If the person is a parent, taking their kid(s) out for a chunk of the day can be a big help. Caring for yourself is hard when you're going through a difficult time, and the energy a person might use to actually do that often gets usurped by caring for others. Obviously, parents can't just neglect their children, so anything you can do to relieve them of that responsibility for a while is gold.

Offering to take the kids to do something fun—a day at the park, ice skating, etc. is even better. A parent knowing their kid is safe, occupied and happy is its own form of relief.

6. Ask what they're struggling with and focus your help there

While all of these practical household things are helpful, there might be some people who find comfort or solace in doing those things themselves. If that's the case, talk with them about what their immediate needs are and what they're having a hard time dealing with. Then focus your energies there. "What can I do to help?" may not be as effective a question as "What are you having a hard time doing right now?" They may not know what kind of help they need, but they probably know how they're struggling.

One person might be lonely and just want some company. Another person might need a creative outlet or a mindless distraction or something physical like going for a walk or a hike. Someone else might have pets they need help caring for, a garden that need tending or the oil changed in their car. Someone might even need a person to serve as a shield or buffer between them and all the people coming to offer their condolences.

Note that many of these things are basic life maintenance stuff—those are often the things that get hard for people when they're dealing with the emotional and logistical stuff surrounding whatever they're going through, and they're often the easiest things other people can do for them. A time of crisis is not a normal time, so normal etiquette, such as asking if you can or should do something rather than just letting them know you're going to do it, doesn't always apply.

If there's a specific thing with specific tasks, such as planning a funeral, that might be a good opportunity to ask how you can help. But people deep in the throes of grief or struggle often need someone to the reins on basic things without being asked to. Again, there's a good chance they feel like they're drowning, so don't wait for an invitation. Just grab the life preserver, put it around them and do whatever needs to be done to get them to shore.


This article originally appeared on 2.5.24

Joy

Couple married for 69 years shares their secrets to a successful marriage

The husband's "2 o'clock in the morning" answer, though.

Representative photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

Couples who have been married a long time have a thing or two to teach us.

"For as long as we both shall live" may be the standard expectation for marriages just starting out, but the reality is a bit different. About half of first marriages end in divorce, and fewer than 5% of marriages last 50 years or more.

Couples who have been married for over 60 years are even rarer to find, but one couple who is pushing 70 years of married life has grabbed the attention of millions on Yair Brachiyahu's TikTok channel.

Surely, two people who have managed to stay together for almost seven decades know something most people don't about what a successful marriage entails, so Yair asked them what advice they'd give for a long and healthy marriage.


The husband chimed in first with a classic, humorous quip—"Just say yes all the time,"—to which they both laughed.

"Just never to fight," the wife said. "No fighting, great marriage."

Yair then asked what they love most about each other. She said she loves when he listens, to which they both laughed again. Then he said he loves "just about everything" about her.

The couple met through friends, and she said he fell for her immediately. He didn't argue with that, saying he fell for looks, body and personality. "That's all you need," he said, adding "She had no money," with a laugh.

When asked how they've been able to stay married for 69 years, they both responded that you have to bend a little—or a lot—and "you have to accept the good and the bad in the person."

And then the finale, when Yair asked what was the best time they've had together. Watch:

@yairbrachiyahu

69 Years Married Couple Give Advice… #interview #lifelessons #longervideos #marriage

People weighed in with their thoughts.

"The magic of 2 o'clock in the morning 😂😂," wrote one person.

"Their sense of humor is obviously one of the reasons they have kept the marriage intact," wrote another.

Some people really resonated with the "accept the good and the bad in the person" advice, others loved how he said, "say yes all the time," while others focused on the "no fighting."

One of the striking things about the couple's advice is how seemingly simple it all is.

"No fighting" may seem unrealistic or even unhealthy to some, but there's a difference between disagreeing and fighting. Research shows that happily married people do get into arguments sometimes, but they disagree and argue differently than couples who aren't happy.

“Happy couples tend to take a solution-oriented approach to conflict, and this is clear even in the topics that they choose to discuss,” said Amy Rauer, associate professor of child and family studies and director of the Relationships and Development Lab in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee. Rauer was the lead author on a study that examined the marital problems happy couples face. One finding from the study is that happy couples choose their battles and focus on dealing with more solvable problems first.

“If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues,” Rauer shared.

Accepting the good and the bad is solid advice, provided the bad isn't something abusive or damaging in some way. Expecting our partners to be perfect or holding them to an unachievable standard leads to conflict and resentment.

And bending? That's key. Marriage is a give-and-take, two-way relationship and both parties have to be flexible.

As for the 2 o'clock in the morning answer, well that's open to interpretation. But it seems pretty clear that the shared attraction that brought them together is still alive and well.

Yair interviews a lot of people in their golden years who share their wisdom and life lessons. You can follow him on TikTok here.


Sustainability

Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.


This article originally appeared on 2.2.24

Sometimes you see something so mind-boggling you have to take a minute to digest what just happened in your brain. Be prepared to take that moment while watching these videos.

Real estate investor and TikTok user Tom Cruz shared two videos explaining the spreadsheets he and his friends use to plan vacations and it's...well...something. Watch the first one:

So "Broke Bobby" makes $125,000 a year. There's that.

How about the fact that his guy has more than zero friends who budget $80,000 for a 3-day getaway? Y'all. I wouldn't know how to spend $80,000 in three days if you paid me to. Especially if we're talking about a trip with friends where we're all splitting the cost. Like what does this even look like? Are they flying in private jets that burn dollar bills as fuel? Are they bathing in hot tubs full of cocaine? I genuinely don't get it.



To be crystal clear here, the top 5 friends on the Forbes list are willing to spend more than double what the guy at the bottom of the Welfare 10 list makes per year on a 3-day guy's trip. I don't know what to do with this information.


But that's not even the full spreadsheet. It might make sense if this guy was just rich, had always been rich, only knew rich people, and therefore having multiple millionnaire friends was his normal. Surely that's some people's reality who were born into the 1%.

That's not the case here, though, because Cruz also has a Welfare 10 list. He says this group of friends who make less than $100K a year call themselves that, and perhaps that's true. (If I were a part of this group, I might call myself a welfare case too because everything's relative and some of these dudes spend more in an hour of vacation than I spend on my mortgage each month.)

It's like we can see our society's wealth gap all laid out nice and neatly in a spreadsheet, only these people aren't even the uber-wealthy and uber-poor. This is just the range of this one guy's friends.

I have nothing against people who build success and wealth for themselves, and even $5 million per year is hardly obscenely wealthy by billionaire standards. But Cruz says he's known most of his "welfare" friends since college, which presumably means most of those guys have college degrees and are making pittance in comparison with the Forbes list. One could claim the guy making $5 million a year just works harder, but does he really work 100 times harder than the guy making $50,000? Doubt it.

Money makes money, and after a certain threshold of wealth or income, it's actually quite easy to get and stay rich without actually "earning" more money, assuming you're reasonably wise and responsible. So maybe the guys who are willing to shell out $125,000 for a week-long trip should offer to pay the travel expenses of the friends they "hang out with regardless of income" who don't even make that in a year, since that's probably just the interest they're making on their wealth anyway.

But what do I know? This is like an entirely different world to me and probably 99+% of Americans, as evidenced by some of the responses.

Naturally, there will be a range of incomes in any group of people, but 1) most of us don't actually know how much our friends make, and 2) even fewer of us make spreadsheets with that information in order to rank our friends and figure out who can go on which vacations.

People are just endlessly fascinating. That's all I've got.


This article originally appeared on 08.20.21