Being There For Friends With Anxiety
When dealing with anxiety, it can be overwhelming and stressful to say the least. Loved ones feel helpless and confused because they themselves have never felt this feeling to this degree. As a result, this lack of understanding can cause more tension or just a feeling of loneliness for the person with anxiety because they feel nobody could ever understand what they are feeling. Although, It only takes simple steps to bring yourself closer to understanding a person with anxiety and being able to help them reduce their anxiety.
First of all, the most important thing to understand when supporting those with anxiety is that their anxiety does not define them. It is not a defining characteristic of their being, just as you and I are not just tall or short or happy or sad. Anxiety is simply a part of themselves and affects their lives. Just as you wouldn’t constantly just badger someone about their height, don’t constantly bring up someone’s anxiety. This has many negative results, and by bringing up a triggering situation you could have all of the emotions from that bad time rush back to the person and makes things worse. As much as we also shouldn’t let anxiety define people, it is also important not to just ignore it. This makes the person feel lonely and distant as well as feel as though there is a lack of trust in your relationship. With most anything else, there is a right time and place as well as a happy balance where it is a good time to discuss someone’s anxiety with them. The moral of the story is to have an open dialogue with the person but not let that consume your relationship with them.
Over the course of my time as a human being, I’ve learned that one of the most important qualities you can have as a person is to be kind to others. This kindness is the most crucial in times of distress and worry, but sometimes you just don’t know how to help. Kindness comes in many forms, and one of the best ways to help someone through their anxiety is just to listen and be open. This unlikely act of kindness lets the person know you are there and are a safe space for them. This allows them to open up to you and for you to better understand how best to then deal with the situation. Don’t talk over your friends, and just let them say whatever they need to say to let it all out. Mental illnesses are not something to be embarrassed about and should be talked about in open conversation rather than being stigmatized, making the situation worse.
If someone is actively having a panic attack, one of the best things to do if all else fails is to just be present. This lets the person know that they are not alone and there is someone who cares. If possible, try to remove the person from the situation causing them their anxiety. At this point, begin to help them calm down by helping them breathe through it (with exercises such as square breathing) or having an engaging conversation about something other than what was making them anxious. This hopefully will then take their mind off of what is making them anxious and begin to become calm again.Telling someone to “just calm down” does not help them physically calm themselves. This only makes the person’s anxiety worse because it makes them feel like they are doing something wrong, causing more stress, This hopefully will then take their mind off of what is making them anxious and begin to become calm again.
Trying to understand someone’s anxiety can be difficult, but taking similar steps to those you would just as a friend can help immensely. Breaking down the barrier and trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes can go such a long way and help them just as much as yourself. Anxiety does not have to take over, if we remember the basic things about being good friends towards others.