Helping someone with anxiety can be a challenge. Their struggle is personal and it is impossible for you, or anyone else, to relate to them on every level. Sometimes you end up making them more anxious by giving unhelpful advice or being inconsiderate of their feelings.
Watching someone, you love and care about, struggling with anxiety is painful. You want to help, but you don’t want to make it worse.
Here are eight tips that you can follow to help someone who is going through a hard time because of anxiety.
1. Learn about their problem
If you really want to help, the first thing you need to do is know about their disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health has categorized anxiety disorders into three types; Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder.
You can learn about the symptoms of these disorders and get information about the type of anxiety your loved one is suffering from.
2. Spend time with this person
You need to spend quality time with them so that you can learn more about their anxiety. But be careful not to smother them with your constant presence around them.
You can invite them to meals, watch a movie, go shopping together or take regular walks. However, when you ask them, make sure that they have the liberty to decline if they don’t feel like it.
3. Let them know that you want to help
It is important that you let them know that you are there for them if they need someone to talk to.
You need to assure them that they can call you whenever their anxiety is getting the best of them and that you will lend an ear without being judgmental. Knowing that you have someone who will pick up your call and listen to your worries when you are feeling blue is really comforting.
4. Encourage them
Anxious people worry for the better part of the day which prevents them from living their day to the fullest and realize their goals in the long run.
To make sure they don’t stay inside their heads all day, you should encourage them to do what they love doing and be supportive of their dreams.
5. Avoid making these comments
You can end up doing more harm by saying unhelpful things like
“There is no need to worry.”
Just because you don’t worry about it doesn’t mean your anxious person feels the same. For them, it is a big deal and you acting like they’re blowing it out of proportion isn’t helpful.
They cannot. Even when you’re saying this with a good intention, they are likely to get more agitated. If they could ‘stay calm’, they would.
“Have a drink.”
You don’t want them to have a drinking problem too, do you?
“It’s going to be fine.”
Although you’re trying to be supportive and comforting, it won’t do any good because they don’t believe it. Instead, validate what they are feeling by encouraging them to work through their worries.
6. Be a good listener
Be mindful during your conversations and listen to their worries. By listening to them effectively, you are creating a space for them to voice their thoughts and that can help them gain perspective.
7. Be patient
Anxiety also takes a toll on those caring for people with anxiety.
Don’t lose hope if they aren’t getting better immediately. Living with anxiety is an uphill battle and it’s hard for them to let go.
8. Help them adopt self-help strategies
There are many self-care strategies that people with anxiety can adopt for themselves. Encourage and support them in their struggle with anxiety.