Last week my friend Anne and I compared notes about what generally happens when people around you realise that you're having a hard time of things.
Often they truly want to help, but nine times out of ten this gets translated into them asking what they can do for you, one of the most frustrating offers in the world.
Yes, you want help (sometimes desperately) but no - you've nowhere near enough strength to organise your thoughts sufficiently to brief them.
As Anne said, 'Don't ask me how you can help, just tell me what you're going to do, and do it'.
When times are tough it can feel as though you're using every ounce of your meagre resources simply to keep the plates spinning.
So when a well-meaning friend asks how they can help, you've literally no capacity to work out a strategy. Better by far if they assume responsibility for a couple of plates. 'I'll look after these two' - they're likely to be the words you long to hear.
However, what if you agree with this principle but don't know how to suggest it to others?
Two ideas spring to mind.
You could always lead by example - help others as you'd like to be helped yourself.
But if the need's more urgent, why not let me do the seed-sowing? Just forward this email to a friend or two.
Almost certainly they'll be only too pleased to know that the best way to help you is to simply roll up their sleeves and make a start on something, anything.
Don't ask, just do.