To see someone you care about dealing with anxiety is hard to watch, and loved ones can often feel helpless. But there are things you can do to help — telling them to ‘stop worrying’ definitely not being one of them.
Cosmopolitan UK spoke to psychologists from personal development and mental well-being app Remente who advised us on exactly what we should be doing for somebody suffering from anxiety.
1. Find out more. When it comes to helping someone you know with anxiety, the first thing you need to do is find out more about what anxiety is and especially what it means for your friend/loved one. Communicate as openly as you can, but also conduct your own research by reading as much as you can on the condition to find out about what other people are experiencing. The more you know, the more support you will be able to offer.
2. Listen. It can sometimes be difficult to understand why someone is feeling anxious about certain things, so make sure to ask and actually listen. For many people with anxiety, thoughts can become so crowded and tangled that even they don’t know what’s necessarily bothering them, so simply listening to them can help in organising their thoughts and making them feel calmer.
3. Be patient. Many people with anxiety are prone to jumping to conclusions and sometimes these conclusions can be quite negative, which can lead them to thinking that their loved ones are unhappy or angry with them. Instead of getting frustrated and irritated by this, you should find the time to calmly talk through the situation and find a workable solution for the next time your loved one gets anxious.
4. Don’t trivialise. While you shouldn’t confirm someone’s anxieties, it is never a good idea to tell an anxious person to ‘just get over it’ or ‘stop worrying.’ Just like when you feel sad and want people to sympathize, the same happens to people with anxiety. The vast majority of sufferers know that their fears and worries are irrational, but they don’t need you to tell them this again and again. Instead, just listen to them and let the episode ride itself out.
5. Keep them company. Recent research by the University of Oxford found that people with big circles of friends had higher pain thresholds and this is something that can be easily applied to anxiety. Hanging out with friends and loved ones increases levels of endorphins, making the anxious person happy, as well as distracting them from their worries. If a friend or loved one is feeling particularly anxious, ask them if they would like to do something, whether with just you or a bigger group of friends. However, as you try and get them out and about, you should keep in mind…
6. …Don’t push them too hard. One of the problems with anxiety is that it can leave people feeling absolutely exhausted. If someone you know suffers from anxiety, it is likely they are often in a hyper-tense state, both physically and mentally, which can be absolutely exhausting. It’s important to remember this if you’re trying to make your anxious friend do more and be more active, they can sometimes be too tired as opposed to just unwilling.
7. Take care of yourself. If you spend a lot of time with someone who has anxiety, it can sometimes start to affect your own mental health. When you start feeling overwhelmed or stressed, make sure to take some me time and do something you enjoy. It is always better to take a step back and relax, as being stressed around an anxious person can just make them stress as a result, setting off an unhealthy chain.
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