This is the type of post that is hard to think of how to begin. Anxiety is such an individualized thing that millions face in their day-to-day life. I do not want to generalize what one person may be going through. But I honestly believe that everyone is touched by anxiety at one point in life. Whether it is you, a family member, a spouse, or a friend that has struggled with anxiety it can be hard to know what to do. The type of anxiety I’m referring to isn’t the normal nerves one feels when life gets stressful, or you have a test, presentation, or hard decision to make. I’m referring to an anxiety disorder, a mental health issue that effects cognitive thinking and a person’s daily life.
I’ve had multiple of my closest loved one struggle with severe anxiety for years, and some for their whole life. I’ve even noticed severe anxiety in myself when life has been at it’s lowest. With that experience, and comments from those I hold most dear, I want to share with you my top 3 tips to help your loved one with anxiety.
Tip 1: Sincere, empathetic listening.
Retrain yourself on how to listen. A sincere listener uses eye contact, verbal cues that they are following, and most importantly have mastered the art of reiteration. When a person with anxiety opens up those feelings and words need to be handled delicately. Chances are it is hard for them to share, and because they did they value you as a safe person to talk to. Listen for key words and reiterate back with a question: “So you are feeling overwhelmed with the work load and don’t know how to move forward?” If you don’t feel like that is appropriate, even a simple: “I’m sorry you are feeling so overwhelmed by life right now, do you want to talk more often? Would that help ease your anxieties?”
Tip 2: Physical Touch.
This definitely depends on the person. Some people feel very uncomfortable with physical touch. A hug, massage, or hand squeeze may make the anxiety worse. If you feel that physical touch is something that would help, try massaging where the anxiety seems to store most. For some this is in their head, shoulders, or even their hands. A tight hug goes a long way to comfort someone with anxiety.
Tip 3: Calming Questions.
Ask helpful questions to get your loved one thinking calmly and positively again, like, “what have you tried?” or “what could you do about it?” These only work if the person has been fully listened to and validated first.
And when it get’s hard remember Bing Bong:
It can be overwhelming to think of how to help your loved one with anxiety. Sometimes their thoughts and feelings may not make sense, or things seem to go down-hill rather than up-hill. Remember it is not your job to fix them. This is their journey. They should see a therapist, and take medications if necessary, and they should be taking care of themselves. However, an extra loving support system goes a long way in recovery.
What are some of your experiences helping loved ones with anxiety? Or maybe anxiety is something you struggle with and would love to offer a word of advice?