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How To Help People With Anxiety

Share Helpful Tips & Resources For Anxiety

How to stop feeling anxious about anxiety | Tim Box | TEDxFolkestone

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.

Help Your Loved One Plan For The Future

Anxiety is often rooted in a fear of the future and things outside our control. Making a plan for each day and each week helps keep anxiety at bay because you know what to expect and you know what role you have to play. This is especially important if you have a spouse struggling with anxiety.

Be specific about what your picture of the upcoming days and weeks look like for you. Planning together and affirming each others decisions helps your loved one believe in their bones that theyre safe and supported.

Learn To Recognize The Signs Of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting up to 18% of the population. Knowing the signs of anxiety can help you realize when someone you love is having fearful thoughts or feelings. Symptoms vary from person to person but can be broken into three categories:

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Dont Hide Your Real Feelings So You Dont Hurt Your Friends

Let your friend know that youre there for them. Admit if you dont know the best course of action to help them feel better. Be willing to explore current research and effective techniques for minimizing the frequency and intensity of anxiety symptoms.

While it may not always make sense to you, understanding your friend or family members triggers for anxiety can help you best support them as they navigate challenging environments or situations.

Quick Read Anxiety Support 101

How to support someone with anxiety
  • Theres a difference between normal, everyday anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
  • If an anxious friend decides to confide in you, show you support them.
  • Validate, rather than minimize, their experience.
  • If you dont have an anxiety disorder, avoid offering advice without listening to your friend.
  • Tell them youre there for them, ask how you can help and listen to what they have to say.

Its never not awkward telling someone I have anxiety disorders. And Ive had to tell a lot of people: friends, family, supervisors, dates.

Opening up to others can be validating and freeing, but its always stressful at first because I dont know how theyll respond. Being stereotyped or treated insensitively when youre struggling can be nerve-wracking, especially if you already get down on yourself for having anxiety.

What Ive learned in my many years of coming clean is that most people mean well. They dont want to say the wrong thing, but it can be hard for them to know the right thing to say if they dont know much about anxiety.

While everyone experiences anxiety, people experience differing degrees of severity, says Ty Lostutter, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety and treats patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at South Lake Union.

Anxiety is normal and healthy. It keeps us safe and motivates us, Lostutter says. It only becomes a problem when someone becomes overly anxious and it interferes with daily life.

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How Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Related To Anxiety Disorders

Some people feel the effects of stress in their stomachs. People with IBS have uncomfortable problems with digestion, including stomach pain, constipation and diarrhea. They also frequently have anxiety and depression, which can make symptoms worse.

The connection between IBS and anxiety comes from the nervous system partly controlling the colon. The nervous systems response to stress may affect the stomach. Among people who get treated for IBS, anywhere from 50% to 90% may also have an anxiety disorder or depression. Treatment for IBS may include stress management and psychotherapy to relieve symptoms.

Dos And Donts Of Helping Someone With Anxiety

  • It is challenging to love someone that lives with anxiety
  • Some of the ways that friends/family try to help can make anxiety worse
  • There are many dos and donts for those who have loved ones with anxiety
  • Your support is going to be a big part of their recovery
  • If you personally have never experienced an anxiety disorder, it is helpful to remember that the experience of living with anxiety is typically not what most people imagine

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Learn To Avoid Procrastination

Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and avoid procrastinating.

Procrastination may harm your productivity and leave you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality .

A study in 140 medical students in China linked procrastination to increased stress levels. The study also associated procrastination and delayed stress reactions with more negative parenting styles, including punishment and rejection .

If you find yourself procrastinating regularly, it may be helpful to get in the habit of making a to-do list organized by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.

Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time. Switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful in itself.

Summary

If you find yourself regularly procrastinating, staying on top of your to-do list may help ward off related stress.

Seeing A Psychologist About Anxiety Disorders

How to cope with anxiety | Olivia Remes | TEDxUHasselt

Though many types of anxiety disorders exist, research suggests that most are driven by similar underlying processes. People with anxiety disorders tend to become easily overwhelmed by their emotions, and they tend to have particularly negative reactions to those unpleasant feelings and situations.

Often, people try to cope with those negative reactions by avoiding situations or experiences that make them anxious. Unfortunately, avoidance can backfire and actually feed the anxiety.

Psychologists are trained in diagnosing anxiety disorders and teaching patients healthier, more effective ways to cope. A form of psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy is highly effective at treating anxiety disorders. Through CBT, psychologists help patients learn to identify and manage the factors that contribute to their anxiety.

Through the cognitive component of therapy, patients learn to understand how their thoughts contribute to their anxiety symptoms. By learning to change those thought patterns, they can reduce the likelihood and intensity of anxiety symptoms.

With the behavioral component, patients learn techniques to reduce undesired behaviors associated with anxiety disorders. Specifically, patients are encouraged to approach activities and situations that provoke anxiety to learn that their feared outcomes are unlikely.

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Tip : All Anxiety Matters

Anxiety is unlike many other types of health and mental health conditions. Anxiety tends to be cumulative, even if you don’t realize it. Behind the scenes, your mind is constantly processing information. The more anxiety you have in your life, the more anxiety you’re going to experience.

This may sound obvious, but the truth is that many people don’t realize all of the ways they’re bringing anxiety into their life. For example:

  • You may listen to music with angry or sad tones that negatively affect your mood.
  • You may watch horror movies, reality shows, or dramas that add negativity.
  • You may gamble, spend money too often, or engage in dangerous activities.

When you suffer from anxiety, all of these things matter. They all bring further anxiety into your life, and make your anxiety disorder worse.

Catalogue what you do throughout the day. Are you doing anything that may be bringing even a small amount of anxiety in your life? Are you reading political blogs, walking down dark alleys at night, or speeding when you drive? Anything you do that can cause even a small amount more anxiety should be carefully reconsidered.

Exposure Therapy For Anxiety

Anxiety isnt a pleasant sensation, so its only natural to avoid it if you can. One of the ways that people do this is by steering clear of the situations that make them anxious. If you have a fear of heights, you might drive three hours out of your way to avoid crossing a tall bridge. Or if the prospect of public speaking leaves your stomach in knots, you might skip your best friends wedding in order to avoid giving a toast. Aside from the inconvenience factor, the problem with avoiding your fears is that you never have the chance to overcome them. In fact, avoiding your fears often makes them stronger.

Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, exposes you to the situations or objects you fear. The idea is that through repeated exposures, youll feel an increasing sense of control over the situation and your anxiety will diminish. The exposure is done in one of two ways: Your therapist may ask you to imagine the scary situation, or you may confront it in real life. Exposure therapy may be used alone, or it may be conducted as part of cognitive behavioral therapy.

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Aromatherapy And Essential Oils

Essential oils, the extract from plants, have been used for thousands of years to treat a number of conditions, including anxiety. Essential oils activate certain areas of your brain and release feel-good chemicals such as serotonin. They have been found to ease symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, improve mood, and improve sleep.

Recommended use includes diffusing, inhalation, or topical treatment which can aid with anxiety symptoms. When diffusing an essential oil or essential oil blend you will need an essential oil diffuser to fill your space with the desired scent. Inhalation is used by deeply smelling the essential oil straight from the bottle or by applying a drop or two of the oil on something such as a diffuser pad or lava bead that is connected to a bracelet, necklace, or even keychain. You can also place a drop or two of essential oil into your hands, rub them together, then cup your hands and take a few deep inhalations to get the desired effect.

You should be sure that the essential oils you use are pure oils and not mixed with chemicals. Some good brands to use include: Mountain Rose Herbs, Plant Therapy, Young Living, Doterra. You can do your own research to find a brand that will best work for you and your budget. Remember that a bottle of essential oil will last a long time since you typically use only a few drops at a time.

Essential oils that are great for treating anxiety include:

  • Lavender
  • Vetiver

Tip : Surrounding Yourself With Positive People

Five Ways to Support a Loved One with Anxiety or Depression

One of the most common issues among those with anxiety is that they tend to spend a lot of time with people that create more anxiety – people that like to engage in reckless activities, people that put them down, etc.

Human beings are incredibly social animals, and as social animals we tend to adapt to the people we spend time with. If you’re spending time with those that create more anxiety in your life, you’re going to continue to have more anxiety.

You do need friends. Friends are also an important part of confidence building and coping. But you also need to make sure that you’re not making friends with people that cause more anxiety in your life. Try to find happier and more supportive friends, and if that’s not possible try to schedule more psychologically healthy activities with those friends.

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Spend Time With Your Pet

Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood.

When you cuddle or touch your pet, your body releases oxytocin a hormone thats linked to positive mood .

Plus, studies show that pet owners especially those who have dogs tend to have greater life satisfaction, better self-esteem, reduced levels of loneliness and anxiety, and more positive moods .

Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active, and providing companionship.

Summary

Although stress is an unavoidable part of life, being chronically stressed takes a toll on your physical and mental health.

Fortunately, several evidence-based strategies can help you reduce stress and improve your overall psychological well-being.

Exercise, mindfulness, spending time with a pet, minimizing screen time, and getting outside more often are all effective methods.

Whats The Outlook For People With Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can often go undiagnosed and untreated. Fortunately, treatment can help. The right treatment can help improve your quality of life, relationships and productivity. It can also support your overall well-being.

You dont need to live with constant worry and fear. If you notice symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Its best to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Doing so can limit the problems that anxiety disorders can cause. Often, a combination of medications and counseling for anxiety can help you feel your best.

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Tip : Write Out Unforgettable Thoughts

Those with anxiety have a tendency to have thoughts – not _always_ anxiety or stress related, but usually anxiety or stress related – that they simply cannot seem to stop thinking about. It’s extremely common before trying to sleep when you’re alone with your own thoughts, but it can technically occur at any time, and when it does it can be fairly stressful, because it makes it impossible to think about anything else.

One strategy that is known to be very effective at relieving these thoughts is to write them down on a journal. Studies have shown that the brain is smart enough to realize when it doesn’t need to remember things. It’s the reason that experts believe people have less fact knowledge now than they did in the past – because the brain doesn’t bother remembering things it can look up easily on Google.

So when you have these thoughts, write them down in a permanent place, no matter what they are – especially if they’re keeping you awake at night. Chances are by writing them down you’re able to focus on the though less and ultimately get some relief from it.

Ask Questions And Listen

How to Help Someone With Depression or Anxiety

Once youve helped your loved one feel safe, you can begin to go deeper in conversation and explore some of the root causes of their anxiety. Dont force a conversation if its not the right time. Let them know that youre available and interested in talking, but let them call the shots about when and where and what.

Remember: The goal here isnt to fix or solve or get rid of the problem. Its to offer support and compassionand one of the best ways to do that is by asking questions and listening intentionally.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

  • When did you begin to feel this anxiety?
  • Was there a specific person or event that triggered it?
  • How can I support you today?
  • What do you need from me right now?
  • Is there anything thats stressing you out that I could help you say no to?

And after you ask these questions, just shut up and listen. Look them in the eye. Nod your head. Validate what they share with simple responses like, Yeah, that sucks. Affirm their vulnerability by saying things like, Wowthank you for sharing that with me, or Im so proud of you for opening up about this.

Most of all, dont give advice unless they specifically ask for it. And even then, check twice before offering your opinions.

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Tip : Make Stresses Fun

This isn’t always possible, but ideally when you have a recurring stress in your life, find a way to make it fun. The most common example is the workplace. Let’s say you work in a toxic environment and you’re stressed every day. What can you do?

Well, you can let that stress effect you, or you can try to turn your work into a game so that it’s more fun, doing things like:

  • Turning your tasks into competitions with yourself.
  • Creating a bingo card of the things that create stress and giving yourself a treat when you get a bingo.
  • Hiding notes around the office that only you’re aware of.
  • Wearing something funny under your business suit as an inside joke with yourself.
  • Planning activities with coworkers during work or after work so that you fear your workplace less.

These are all quick examples of ways you can quickly make your work more enjoyable, and once your work is more enjoyable, the stresses won’t have quite as much of a lasting impact on your life.

Above All Continually Offer Hope

Anyone can overcome anxiety disorder with the right information, help, and support. Freedom from problematic anxiety is attainable even though it can be a lot of work. Your continued reassurance can help him or her get through the drudgery of recovery. Once he or she has recovered, youll recognize the true value of the hope you provided.

As we mentioned, there arent any miracle or quick-fix cures for anxiety disorder. Overcoming it requires getting the right information, help, and support, and then doing the work required. But success is attainable for anyone willing to do the work.

Your help in this process can make a significant difference, especially when you know how to help. The above tips can help you help your loved one.

For 35 additional ways to help someone with anxiety disorder, members can read the 50 Ways To Help Someone With Anxiety Disorder section in Chapter 14 in the Recovery Support area.

Members can also visit the sections 10 Ways To Help Children Of A Parent With Anxiety Disorder and 20 Ways To Help Affected Others in Chapter 14, as well.

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