How to Help Someone Dealing with Anxiety
Anxiety disorders have a profound impact on a person’s behaviour. People with anxiety often become inward focused, short-tempered, easily frightened, confused and discouraged. To get through this tough period in their lives, people dealing with anxiety need a support system. This support system may consist of friends, family and mental health workers like a psychologist.
The right support system can help individuals deal with the symptoms of anxiety on a daily basis, while professional treatment helps them tackle the core problem and overcome the mental condition. While you cannot fix someone’s anxiety, you can provide support through these steps.
How to help someone dealing with anxiety
Be open: Let the person dealing with anxiety (a friend or loved one) know that they can talk to you. Let them know they can speak to you about anything, anytime and that you won’t judge them, even if they express the same thoughts over and over again.
Spend as much time together as possible: Spending a lot of time with the person dealing with anxiety can be huge for them. The company of others prevents them from pondering on their negative thoughts which leads to anxiety. If you can do a fun, engaging activity with them, this will be even better.
Do activities together: Outdoor activities like exercise are a great way to deal with anxiety. You can also create new memories with the person, which helps deal with stress and negative emotions.
Keep your emotions under check: Always express pride when they make progress, but keep your frustrations in check. People dealing with anxiety are inclined to think negatively, and will assume that any facial expressions you make are borne out of frustration or negativity towards them. Therefore, always make it clear when you are happy for them, and try to keep your negative emotions in check.
Stay calm: People dealing with anxiety have irrational fears, these fears, in turn, trigger several changes in the body through what is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism. These physical changes lead to some profound anxiety symptoms. You can help your loved one through these symptoms by staying calm and helping them remain calm. Once they start acting out of fear, stay with them and encourage them to calm down. It often takes about 20 minutes for the body to recover from the changes triggered by the fight and flight mechanism.
Empathise: People dealing with anxiety already feel bad about themselves, patronising them is not going to help. Instead, show support and understanding, and they will appreciate it a lot more.
Encourage them to seek professional help: Anxiety will not go away by itself. It’s a condition that can affect someone for months or years on end. The best way to reduce its effects is to seek out treatment with a mental health worker. However, if left to themselves, people dealing with anxiety might not want to find professional help, because they don’t want to admit that they have a problem. However, with your support, they might be more inclined to do so. Seek out an appointment with a GP as a starting point for treatment.
Use the right words when dealing with anxiety:
Part of helping a friend or loved one deal with anxiety is knowing what to say and how to say it. Choice words will either encourage them to open up to you or retreat, which only makes it harder to help them. As is the case with depression, you need to convey that you are sympathetic to their plight and are willing to listen to them. Therefore, statements like “I’m here for you”, “I have noticed you have been behaving differently”, “I am a little concerned” and “What can I do to help?” will gain a favourable response because they show that you care.
By contrast, you should avoid jumping to conclusions or presuming that you know what your loved one is going through (unless you have dealt with anxiety yourself). Even if well-intentioned, making assumptions will not help the person who is dealing with anxiety. Avoid making statements like “Have you tried yoga?” “Are you ok?” or “Why aren’t you seeing a therapist?” Blunt statements like this will only force the person in question to feel ashamed of their condition and discourage them from opening up to you. Remember, it is not your job to fix anxiety, but to help, and you can only help if you are willing to listen.
Dealing with anxiety requires support from friends and family. While you cannot fix the problem, you can help a friend or loved one deal with the symptoms of anxiety daily. Being a pillar of support goes a long way in helping them overcome their anxiousness. At the same time, it’s important to take care of your own emotional health, take care not to reflect the thinking of an anxious person or snap or lose patience with them.
Helping someone with their anxiety requires a lot of time and understanding.
Learn more about anxiety, its symptoms and how to get help by visiting onPsych.