What To Say To Someone With Anxiety
If your loved one feels comfortable discussing their anxiety, use active listening techniques to show you understand how they feel and that it makes sense. You could use phrases such as:
- How can I help you?
- I’ve noticed you’ve been anxious recently, and I’m worried about you
- No matter what, I’ll always be here for you
- Do you want to go for a walk and talk about it?
Do A Daily Or Routine Meditation
While this takes some practice to do successfully, mindful meditation, when done regularly, can eventually help you train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they arise.
If sitting still and concentrating is difficult, try starting with yoga, or walking meditation. There are many free guided meditations on apps like InsightTimer that can help you get started.
What Are Some Treatments For Someone Experiencing Anxiety
Anxiety has been a diagnosable condition for many years, and there has been no shortage of potential treatments to deal with this debilitating condition. Thankfully, while the number of treatment options can seem overwhelming, there are also a variety of potential sources to find help. This includes the National Mental Health Hotline, which can be reached at 866-903-3787. Other resources include:
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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.
Help Someone Who Is Anxious To Temper Their Thinking
Youll be a more useful support person if you educate yourself about cognitive-behavioral models of anxiety, which you can do by reading or attending a therapy session with your loved one. But, in lieu of that, you might try using some techniques that can be helpful to people suffering from anxiety.
Typically, anxious people have a natural bias towards thinking about worst-case scenarios. To help them get some perspective on this, you can use a cognitive therapy technique where you ask them to consider three questions:
- Whats the worst that could happen?
- Whats the best that could happen?
- Whats most realistic or likely?
So, if your loved one is anxious that they were supposed to hear from their parents hours ago but havent, you can suggest they consider the worst, best, and most likely explanations for the lack of contact.
Take care not to overly reassure your loved one that their fears wont come to pass. Its more useful to emphasize their coping ability. For example, if theyre worried about having a panic attack on a plane, you could say, That would be extremely unpleasant and scary, but youd deal with it. And, if your loved one is feeling anxious that someone else is angry with them or disappointed in them, its often useful to remind them that you can only ever choose your own actions and not completely control other peoples responses.
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What If Your Partner Refuses To Take Treatment
Anxiety is a real mental issue, but it is very treatable. However, it is sometimes hard to convince someone to get treated.
There are different reasons why. They might have tried before and found that it didnt help. Treatment can fail because they are not the appropriate type for the kind of anxiety a person has.
According to Thieda:
It is best to work with a professional who uses cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques and is specifically trained in working with people who struggle with anxiety.
Another reason could be that they find professional treatment daunting and intimidating.
For this, Thieda suggests:
Maybe they need to approach their treatment in a different way, breaking down the challenges into smaller, more manageable pieces.
But whatever you do, Thieda urges you not to resort to pleading or manipulation.
No amount of begging, pleading, or threatening is going to be effective, and will likely make things worse.
The truth is, you cannot help someone who doesnt want to be helped. You can certainly explain to your partner how treatment can help them. But ultimately, it will be their decision.
Shifting Your Mental State To Relieve Stress
Anxiety causes stress because we instinctively perceive it as a problem, nothing more. This evokes emotion such as anger and fear.
Talkspace therapist Kate Rosenblatt MA, LPC, LMHC recommended couples try to shift their mindset regarding anxiety. It can be helpful to remember that feelings are not necessarily facts, but they are trying to tell us something. Asking yourself: What is this anxiety trying to say? This can be helpful in understanding what you might be wanting in the moment, and what you can do to best support yourself. Dialectical behavior therapy teaches us about the importance of emotion regulation, and how key it can be to do what works for us to calm our minds and bodies down when we feel anxious, so that we can make the best decisions for ourselves.
Rather than seeing it only as a source of stress, they can develop a curiosity about it. Trying to understand the anxiety makes it more difficult to become angry about it.
Know What Is Not Helpful
According to Saltz, its important to understand that continuing to be the one to say dont worry about that because is not actually helping, even if your friend or loved one thinks it is. You can’t make someone stop seeking reassurance, but you can tell them it’s actually making the situation worse, she says.
Another mistake to avoid, Richardson says, is taking on the role of a clinical professional. “Even if you have experience with anxiety, you don’t always know what’s best for someone else,” she says.
Instead, Richardson recommends being supportive and transparent and let your friend or loved one know you’re there for them. “You can also share what might have worked for you, but then give them space and unconditional positive regard as they navigate their own journey,” she says.
Its also important to avoid judging and blaming a loved one when they are feeling anxious. Even when youre the most frustrated, stop, take a breath, and step back. They need to see that you love them unconditionally, even when anxiety is high.
Maybe You Just Need A Drink
Self-medicating will lead to trouble in times of Anxiety. It’s potentially dangerous to give such advice. A study on the Use of Alcohol and Drugs for Self-Medication was conducted. The survey results indicated that self-medication was linked with the likelihood of mood disorders, substance use disorders, distress, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts.
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Just Don’t Think About It
A person with Anxiety will know the easiest way to solve their problem, but they may sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused. It takes courage for a person with Anxiety to share their feelings while going through Anxiety. After a time, they will stop coming to you and sharing what is distressing them.
Offer Support In A Helpful Way
When people receive treatment for anxiety disorders, their clinicians often give them homework assignments or coping mechanisms to help them manage their anxiety. It could be something like deep breathing, for example.
Some of what you offer is help focusing. I am here for you. What did the therapist say to do? Hudak said. Give support and redirection.
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Adopt A Confidentiality Policy
Once an employee opens up about any concern of theirs, whether physical or mental, it is really important employers ensure any information on the matter is kept strictly confidential. Unless you believe the individual or someone is in danger.
Talking about how we feel can come with challenges for a lot of us, and trust is an important element of this. Ensure all conversations with anyone about their mental health is done in a private and comfortable space and consider the employeesâ well being throughout the entire process.
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.
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Work With Their Emotions
The key thing to remember is that anxiety is not a rational disorder. Therefore, a rational response will most likely not help, especially during a moment of distress. Instead, try to work with the emotions. Accept that they feel anxious and, rather than being direct, be patient and kind. Remind them that while they may feel distressed, the feeling will pass.
Work with the irrational thoughts and acknowledge that the person is worried. For example, try something like: I can understand why you feel that way, but I can assure you that its just your anxiety. It isnt real.
When Is My Anxiety Harmful
Identifying what sort of anxiety youre dealing with can be somewhat challenging because how ones body reacts to perceived danger can be entirely different compared to another person.
Its likely you heard anxiety as a blanket term for that general feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. Its often a feeling in response to an upcoming event that has an uncertain outcome.
Every person deals with it at one time or another, because its part of our brains response to a perceived danger even if that danger isnt real.
That said, there are times anxiety can get serious and turn into anxiety attacks that initially feel manageable and then gradually build up over a few hours.
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Support Her In Her Decision To Seek Therapy
Traditionally, society has had a dim view of therapy. Fortunately, this view is changingand quickly. More people today are seeking professional help for psychological and emotional challenges than ever before. Thats because the negative stigma associated with seeking professional help is diminishing, as well as, more and more people are seeing the benefits of therapy.
Moreover, professional therapy approaches and skillsets are improving as independent research on their effectiveness improves.
For example, independent research led to disproving the chemical imbalance cause of anxiety and has supported the effectiveness of therapy. Because of the recent strides in research and techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is now recognized as the Gold Standard for anxiety disorder and depression resolution.
If your loved one wants to pursue therapy for anxiety disorder, encourage her to proceed and support her as she continues. Overcoming anxiety disorder takes time and effort, which can be discouraging at times. Encouraging her to continue can help her work through times of discouragement. Lasting success occurs for those who persevere.
What Causes Workplace Anxiety
Anxiety is different from workplace stress. Stress is often onset by deadlines and juggling demanding tasks at work, however, anxiety can feel like life is out of control. Anxiety in the workplace is often caused by:
- Heavy workloads
- Lack of autonomy
- Conflicts with colleagues
Workplace anxiety is a growing problem for many workers, in a variety of different sectors. There are steps individuals can take to support how they are feeling and reduce their feelings of anxiety, however its important for employers to be proactive in helping employees manage anxiety. In doing so, employees are less likely to experience work-related mental ill-health leading to a happier, more productive workforce.
If youre looking to assess the mental health risks within your workplace including workplace anxiety and stress, we recommend using our free workplace mental health risk assessment template just here. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, every employer has a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees are protected. Employers must conduct a risk assessment to identify the measures necessary to comply with the Act and other regulations.
You can also check out our recent podcast here with Debbie Bullock where we discuss strategies you can utilise to promote positive wellbeing and help those who may be experiencing anxiety or depression:
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Encourage Your Loved One To Talk To Someone Who Can Help
Even if you deserve the husband of the year award, your expertise can only go so far. Ive been doing this for years, and I still find myself in over my head when working with someone through a challenging situation. Anxiety can be rooted in years of trauma and neglect and the toxic values we absorb about ourselves. Those ugly beliefs will impact how we relate to people down the road. Its quite possible that your loved one might need support and guidance from a professional. That could be a pastor at church or finding a good therapist .
Often, folks who feel trapped by anxiety need reassurance that theyre worth the time and money investment of professional help. It takes a lot of courage to choose vulnerability and to do the hard work of facing your anxiety. So, be your friends biggest cheerleader. And if its your spouse who needs counseling, you can offer to go together so you can learn tools to support them along their journey.
Creating A Safe Space To Discuss Anxiety
Whether you ask or deduce it after months of dating, there will be a point when your partner discloses they deal with anxiety. Its a crucial moment in the relationship, so be sensitive, have empathy and do not judge. Thank them for trusting you with this information that they have most likely have not shared with many people. See it as the beginning of a discussion you can resurface occasionally.
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Focus On Action Over Words
A soothing, familiar voice helps some people, but try to avoid repeatedly saying things like dont worry or asking them if theyre alright over and over.
Of course you mean well, but your words may not have much benefit in the moment. They can also make the situation more stressful, since your loved one may believe theyre doing something wrong by not being alright.
Share Helpful Tips & Resources For Anxiety
It might feel overwhelming to try and figure out how to help someone with severe anxiety. Its OK if youre not sure exactly where to start. Even if your loved one has already explored on their own, there are so many resources you can suggest to help them. This can include on-topic books, articles, apps, online groups, podcasts, and radio and television shows.
Here are a few authoritative resources that can be very helpful:
Anxiety is such a common mental health condition that there are tons of resources out there for anyone trying to navigate their healing.
While each person is unique and has their own experiences with anxiety, its important to remember that the tips and strategies recommended are like a muscle that needs to be strengthened. The more you practice them, the easier itll be to access them in the moment when you need them the most.
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Listen And Help Facilitate A Plan
If you know someone who is struggling with anxiety, reach out to them and provide support by just listening to what they have to say, says Catherine Richardson, LPC, a Talkspace therapist. If youre not sure how to start the conversation, Richardson says to ask them how you can help.
Let them know they can come to you when they feel anxious and that you would like to be there for them, she says.
Together, you can come up with a plan to facilitate this process, such as meeting in person, talking on the phone, or connecting online. Richardson also recommends asking them if there is something they enjoy doing like going to the park, going to a particular restaurant, or watching a favorite movie, that you could do together.
But most importantly, she says, encourage them to seek help if you feel like they are really struggling and could benefit from therapy.
What Do You Say To Someone With Anxiety
- Are You OK? …
- I’m Always Here if You Need to Talk …
- Your Fears/Worries/Triggers Are Not Silly …
- Take Your Time …
- Let’s Sort Through This Together …
- How Can I Help? …
- There’s a Cup of Tea Waiting for You at Home …
- This Feeling Will Pass
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