Manage Your Own Emotions
If your friend or a family member becomes overly anxious or panicky in certain situations, it is important not to get too emotional yourself. Although it is important to be empathetic, try not to focus too much on the fear.
For example, if your friend panics before going to a social gathering, avoid overly empathizing with them about how difficult it will be. Focus on the positive progress that they are making and your confidence in their ability to cope.
Stop Treating Your Loved One Like A Machine
If you see someone struggling and spinning out of control, hurting and afraid, your first impulse might be to try and fix the situation with advice and rational thinking. This comes from a good place. We just want our loved one to be better, and we dont want them to hurt!
But theres a dangerous side to this impulse. Without realizing it, we begin to treat the people in our lives as machines that need to be fixed or puzzles that need to be solved. When they feel anxious or panicked, we want to jump in and fix them. Hear me on this: Your loved one is not a broken machine. Anxiety is a signal that theyre feeling unsafe and disconnected. Instead of trying to fix them, lean in and listen. Provide a safe, supportive space for connection.
Instead of focusing on solving the problem, offering advice, or muscling your way to a solution , just ask yourself how you can simply be with your loved one. Offer support. Offer love. Offer a listening ear. Offer your presence. Clean the kitchen or fill their car with gas. Move toward with your heart and not at with your advice.
The Link Between Anxiety Symptoms And Depression
Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse , its important to seek treatment for both conditions.
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Be Aware Of Your Impact
If youre going to be late, let them know. Or if you dont have time to reply to an email or text, give a quick explanation so your friend isnt left to worry.
Anxiety can be an inner-bully it can convince people they are burdensome. Make a conscious effort to reassure your anxious friend. A simple I love spending time with you means a lot.
Psychotherapy For Anxiety Disorders: What To Expect
Psychotherapy is a collaborative process, where psychologists and patients work together to identify specific concerns and develop concrete skills and techniques for coping with anxiety. Patients can expect to practice their new skills outside of sessions to manage anxiety in situations that might make them uncomfortable. However, psychologists wont push patients into such scenarios until theyre sure they have the skills they need to effectively confront their fears.
Psychologists sometimes use other approaches to treat anxiety disorders in addition to CBT. Group psychotherapy, which typically involves several people who all have anxiety disorders, can be effective for both treating anxiety and providing patients with support.
Family psychotherapy can help family members understand their loved ones anxiety and help them learn ways to interact that do not reinforce anxious habits. Family therapy can be particularly helpful for children and adolescents suffering from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are very treatable. Most patients who suffer from anxiety are able to reduce or eliminate symptoms after several months of psychotherapy, and many patients notice improvement after just a few sessions.
Psychologists are highly trained and will tailor a treatment plan to address the unique needs of each patient. To find a licensed psychologist in your area, visit Psychologist Locator.
Create A Safe Environment
To help someone with anxiety, you need to create an environment they feel safe in. If youre not taking their stress seriously, they wont feel safe near you. If an anxious person has experienced a trauma, youll want to be delicate around making them feel safe. You might add extra security protections in your home, such as home security, additional locks on doors, wooden bars on windows so they cant be tampered with, and more. Its all about making them feel like theyre in control. A loss of control is a common fear in the aftermath of a trauma, particularly when they lose control during a car accident, sexual assault, or military experience.
Do Look After Yourself
When you offer to help with anxiety, it is understandable for you to feel frustrated, scared or tired from time-to-time. It is likely that their anxieties are having an effect on you too.
Make sure that youre dealing with these emotions and maintaining your wellbeing. Talk to other friends or family members about how you are feeling, think about accessing therapeutic support, take really good care of your physical and mental health, and book in time every week to do activities that you enjoy. By keeping yourself well, you will be in a much better position to help the person with anxiety.
And always remember, youre doing your best.
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Knowing How Anxiety Works Can Help You To Better Support Loved Ones Without Inadvertently Making Their Anxiety Worse
When I first moved into my spouses house in 2001, she didnt want to include my name in our answering machine greeting. Because of our big age gap and same-sex relationship, she was justifiably anxious about how her parents would react to my having moved in so she kept it from them for several months. Though I felt a great deal of compassion for her and her situation, I was also frustrated that her anxiety was affecting meand I didnt like acting as though we had something to be ashamed of.
Scenarios like this are common when someone in your life is struggling with anxiety. Your loved one may feel so fearful that they avoid taking action, or act in ways that are inconsiderate or that increase your own anxiety. This might look like a boyfriend constantly putting off important tasks or discussions, a friend complaining about being lonely but refusing to date, or a boss always focusing on what could go wrong, making everyone miserable. Its difficult to witness anxiety in someone you know, and its even harder when their anxiety triggers yours.
But what can you do to help anxious people?
While its upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help. Here are some of the strategies I recommend based on my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.
Instead Say: Lets Go To A Quieter Place Or Go For A Walk
If you want to try to help your friend get out of anxiety mode , you can try grounding them back in reality. Anxiety makes people hyper-focused on the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that are causing the distress, so to get your friends mind off of those things, ask if they want to take a walk, listen to some music or go to a quiet corner.
Sometimes we need a supportive push to help break us out of our vicious cycle of panic and panicking about panic. Techniques like this are similar to what trained psychologists and therapists use as part of cognitive behavioral therapy, the gold standard of treatment for people who have anxiety disorders.
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Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode. Agoraphobia, the fear of being somewhere where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack, may also accompany a panic disorder. If you have agoraphobia, you are likely to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.
Do Get A Good Understanding Of Their Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety impacts people differently. There are a wide range of anxiety symptoms and people can exhibit different behaviours, including defensiveness, irritability and restlessness.
Reading up on anxiety types and its different symptoms can help you get a good understanding of what the person you care about is going through. This in turn can help you to empathise with their experience and identify times when they may need more support.
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How Can I Help A Loved One With Anxiety
If you love someone who has an anxiety disorder, there are a lot of ways that you can support them.
First stepjust learn more about the condition. Read stories from other people who have had that diagnosis or a similar one. Sometimes the best way to really understand is to hear a moving story from someone in their own words.
Understand theres a difference between stress and an anxiety disorder. We are all stressed about life sometimes. People with anxiety disorders are trapped inside their own heads. Making people feel weak because their brains work a different way however is just not helpful. You may think youre giving tough love to somebody, but youre probably making them feel worse.
Dont demand that they follow specific treatment plans. If you had anxiety and found a certain type of medication or a particular therapist helpful, thats great! You should absolutely share that information with a friend to be helpful. But dont preach your way as the only possible way, since thats between your loved one and their treatment team. There are many evidence-based treatments out there, and recovery is highly personal.
Pick good times to have conversations. Yelling at someone whos in the middle of a panic attack for ruining a special event is not going to help anyone. Having a conversation after the fact about how you can help is a much better approach.
Help Them Imagine The Worst
Though it seems counterintuitive to managing anxiety, helping an anxious person examine every catastrophe theyre imagining can, per Dr. Paul Puri, psychiatrist, and the Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of OOtify mental health community, actually organize and demystify punishing thoughts. Many people going through anxiety suffer from catastrophic thinking, he explains. They imagine the absolute worst thing that can possibly happen, but they dont play it out fully. Help them do that. Ask them what would happen next? And what would happen after that? And so on. Often, if they can come up with a plan for that worst case scenario, theres a lot less to be afraid of.
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Dont Be Silly Everybody Is Too Busy With Their Own Lives To Focus On You
A friend thought that pointing this out would relieve my irrational thoughts. Sadly not. At the time, I was worried that everyone in the room was judging me negatively. Social anxiety is an all-consuming disorder. So while deep down I knew that people werent focused on me, it still didnt stop the taunting thoughts.
Dont Say: Why Arent You Seeing A Therapist/on Medication
Theres nothing wrong with showing concern for a friend, but be careful it doesnt come across as accusatory. Suggesting your friend should be doing something can create a sense of shame if they arent, or make them feel like theyre being judged. If they do need to see a mental health counselor or take medication, those are decisions they need to make on their own and at their own pace.
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Where Can I Buy Pop It Toys
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Encourage Them To Try Meditation Or Deep Breathing
These are two of the most effective home remedies for anxiety.
Meditation can be performed alone or in a group. Some people with anxiety find that guided meditation is helpful, since it can help redirect the mind and slow down racing thoughts.
You could also send your loved one a link to some apps for anxiety. They can browse and see what works best for them.
has shown that deep, controlled breathing can promote feelings of relaxation by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls bodily functions when a person is at rest.
To help them practice, you could even offer to meditate or do some deep breathing with them.
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Do Listen To How They Want To Be Supported
When you ask the person how you can support them, listen carefully to their preferences. After all, you want to know how to help people with anxiety and support them. They may want help breaking down a task they are anxious about, they may want you to distract them from their anxious thoughts or they may just want someone to talk to.
Dont Buy Into The Common Myths About Anxiety
We have a lot of misconceptions about anxiety in our culture. As a result, we can give really bad advice to people were trying to help. Here are a few of the common phrases people with anxiety often hear:
- Just chill out.
- Try some yoga or deep breathing.
- Anxiety is a disease.
- Anxiety is a genetic disorder that was passed down to you from your parents. Its just the way you are!
- Anxiety means something is wrong with you.
- Anxiety only affects lazy, weak or undisciplined people.
- If youre anxious, youre probably hiding something from your loved ones, from God or from yourself.
- Anxiety is just stress. We all worry. Get over it.
Now, you might not say those things word for word, but I bet youve heard a similar rationale beforeor at least felt it. The truth is, anxiety is caused by about a million different factors converging together to create a chaotic ecosystem. And while things like yoga and breathing can help, healing from anxiety takes more than just a 10-minute meditation with some essential oils. Dont belittle or minimize the anxiety your loved one is feeling.
Anxiety Relief Checklist
While there’s no quick fix for anxiety, there are practical steps you can take today to find relief.
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