Anxiety is a horrible, yet inevitable part of life. Watching someone you love struggle with anxiety is both heart-breaking and frustrating and you may not know how to help someone with anxiety. When you feel stressed or anxious, the world feels like a huge, unmanageable and frightening place. Sometimes hibernating in the confines of your duvet for eternity seems like the only option. If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, you can often rely on those around you to act as a support system.
However, you can often feel guilty about leaning on the people around you and there are times when even your friends and family don’t know how to make things better for you. I say this as someone who has driven those around me insane on countless occasions with the smallest of things. In the past I used to get anxious about things that other people wouldn’t give a second thought to. Over the years I have found different ways to quieten the worries in my head; there are still times when I need a helping hand to remind me that the world isn’t overwhelmingly terrifying. With this in mind, it occurred to me that sometimes the people around me may have needed help with knowing how to support me.
People struggling with anxiety often realise that the thoughts and feelings that they are experiencing are irrational and they don’t mean to ramble on. The anxious person you know wishes that they could stop talking about these worries, just as much as you wish that you could stop hearing about them. Be patient. Lending your ear to a friend when they are having a meltdown could be just what they need to get them back to their old selves. You don’t always have to know what to say in these situations; the simple act of listening can mean the world.
Try not to dismiss your friend when they are talking to you about their woes and worries. A simple phrase like “don’t be so silly” can be incredibly hurtful to someone who has chosen to confide in you and it may make them more likely to bottle up their worries. Encourage them to talk whilst reminding them that you will not judge them. It can be difficult to understand why the thought of going to particular place or doing a certain thing can feel earth-shattering. If you haven’t struggled with similar feelings to such an intense degree you may get frustrated when a simple task causes someone else so much anxiety. Try as best as you can to remain patient and challenge their thoughts in a calm manner. Ask them why a particular event or activity is a stressor to them and see if there is anything that you can do to eliminate the obstacles or alleviate the pressure.
I recently interviewed a member of the Wellbeing Services at Exeter University and asked her a few questions about stress and anxiety. She had this to say: “The term stress is derived from a physicist who used it to describe how heavy a load a structure had to carry. We feel stressed when we feel that we are unable to cope with the demands that are upon us.”
Anxiety is one of the most prominent mental health issues within the UK. Research from a YovGov survey
found that 1 in 5 people feel anxious all the time or a lot of the time. Although talking about mental health has been a taboo in the task, in recent years we have become more educated on the issues that we are all facing and more people are talking about how they’re feeling. It is important that you try to support someone when you know that they’re struggling as you never know if you’ll need a helping hand in the future.
No one is asking you to be a 24/7 source of support, the best thing you can do is aid your friend, family member or partner in their time of need and let them know that you’re around. I have often found that just knowing that someone is willing to be there for you is a great source of comfort. Just as the simplest things can set someone who suffers with anxiety off, sometimes the simplest of things can help them feel calmer.
Here are my top tips for you to consider:
•Talking: Encourage your friend to talk about their feelings or keep a personal diary. The simple act of getting their feelings out of their head either through talking or on paper can help them tackle the irrational thoughts and feelings.
•To-do lists: Suggest to your friend that they write a to-do list. This can initially feel like a daunting thing for them, but breaking down tasks into bite size chunks makes them seem less scary and more manageable.
•Signals and codes: Have a signal or code that they can use in a social situation which is discreet but allows them to indicate to you when they’re feeling anxious. It could be something as simple as a particular phrase which can be dropped into a conversation or text which alerts you that something is wrong. With this simple technique, you’ll be aware of the problem and therefore it can be resolved.
•Research: Something which you can do in your own time is to research anxiety and stress. Browsing a few pages on the Internet will inform you about what your friend is going through and as a result, you may feel more confident when helping them.
•Be patient: I know that I have mentioned this before but that is only because it is essential. If your anxious family member/friend/partner feels as if they are frustrating you or that they are a hindrance, this will only serve to cause more anxiety. Even if they have repeated themselves for the thousandth time about how they’re not sure if they locked the door or if they said something wrong, just keep calm and comfort them.
•Remember: You’re doing fine. Seeing someone you love suffer is difficult, but just know that if you’re reading this or following these steps, you’re doing something to help them.