How are you holding up?

One phrase that you might hear get said is “How are you holding up?”. This is a question that means “How are you doing?” but should only be used in specific circumstances.
Asking people how they’re doing is very common in the English speaking world. Still, interestingly, most of the time we’re not actually interested how the other person is doing, we’re just saying it to be polite.

“How are you holding up?” can also be asking someone to explain what methods they’re using to maintain a stable mental condition, although the phrase being asked in that way is far less common. Most of the time, it’s another way of saying “How are you?”.

So what is the short answer that most of you might be looking for?

“How are you holding up” is another way of saying “How are you doing?” Usually said to people who are going through a difficult time.

In this article, we will be diving into all elements of this saying, and you will get inspiration to similar sentences with the same meaning.

When to not use “How are you?”

There’s likely going to be a few of you who are now wondering why we even have two separate phrases that essentially mean the same thing.

We don’t need to ask people how they’re holding up when we can just ask them how they are.

But you wouldn’t usually say “How are you holding up?”. This is a phrase which people will generally only use when they’re talking to someone who has gone through a tough time recently. It’s a way of saying “I understand that things are difficult for you, but I want you to know I’m here to support you”.

What tense is it in?

“How are you holding up” and “How have you been?” are actually written in different tenses. This is one of those facts that most of us probably don’t even think about, but it just becomes super obvious when it’s pointed out to us.

“How have you been” is in the past tense as it’s talking about things that have already happened.

“How are you holding up” however is in the present tense, as you’re talking about someone’s current mental state. Because you’re talking about what is happening at the exact moment, and not something that happens in general, it’s in the present continuous.

Why we say it

The reason why we say “holding up” is another thing where most of us don’t even think about it, but whenever it gets explained to us, it becomes so clear.

“Holding up” is another way of saying staying together. Think of it a bit like a tower of wooden blocks. If you pile up just a few of them, the tower holds up. But if you then start to add more and more bricks, eventually, the tower won’t be able to stand for much lower, and it will fall over.

This is a metaphor for what happens when you’re struggling with your mental health. When something terrible happens, it can all become too much for you, and you struggle to hold up.

What are you holding up?

This is a metaphor that we use all the time and don’t even think about it. When most of think of metaphors, we tend to think of a technique that only writing experts know about. But in reality, even we can use metaphors.

Obviously, nobody is physically holding anything up, but they are metaphorically holding up their mental health.

If you need help

With all this talk about mental health, I feel like I should spend a paragraph to let you know that if you’re struggling from it, you should not be ashamed.

I know it’s like to be in that situation and the best piece of advice I can give to is make sure you speak to the people who can help you to overcome your problems. Please know that no matter how hard it gets, you are never alone.

Even if you’re not in that position, taking care of your mental health is super important and can impact other areas of your life.

Similar Phrases

Hold Up

But back the talking about “How are you holding up?”.

There’s another phrase that kind of resembles “holding up” but actually has nothing to do with it at all, and that is “hold up”.

“Hold Up” is another way of saying “pause what you’re saying”. It’s a phrase that you might say when someone says something that’s surprising, confusing, or unpalatable.

By telling someone to “hold up”, you’ll be giving yourself opportunity to explain why you paused their speech, you will either want to clarify the facts, try to understand what they mean, or express your disgust.

Hold On

“Holding Up” sounds similar to another phrase that has nothing to do with it.
“Holding On”.

Of course, you can hold onto something in a physical sense. If you go outside when it’s windy, it can be said that you need to hold onto your hat.
Or if you’re playing rugby, you will need to hold onto the ball.

But there’s three ways “holding on” can be used metaphorically.

The first one is when you have to wait.
And the second is when you’re staying with a person or project no matter how boring it is or how difficult it’s making things for you.
And finally, you can use it in a similar way that you would use “hold up”.

Hold Tight

And the final phrase that sounds a bit like “How are you holding up” but means something utterly different is “Hold Tight”.

This can be in a physical sense. For example, a gymnast might get told to “hold tight” by his coach, so he doesn’t fall.
But it can also be a way of saying “I know this is taking a long time, but you really do need to be patient”. It can also mean “I know you’ve been waiting for a while, but the wait is almost over”.


“How are you holding up” is another way of saying “How are you doing?” or “How have you been?”, but it’s what you should say to people who have been through a difficult time. And if that’s you, please make sure you seek mental health support.

We say “holding up” because you are metaphorically having to hold yourself up so that you don’t break down, and go through a lot of pain.

Other phrases that sound like “How are you holding up?” but mean totally different things are “Hold up” “Hold on” and “Holding Tight”.