7 Ways To Help Someone With Anxiety
At different stages of life, many people experience anxiety, whether it’s starting school (at any age), going to a new place, or dealing with a health concern. As friends, family, or colleagues, we can make a difference by offering understanding and support.
So, how can you support loved ones dealing with anxiety? First, recognize that anxiety is a natural human emotion, not a flaw or weakness. It helps us perceive threats, navigate social interactions, and stay vigilant against deception and danger. Having some caution and concern is beneficial. However, for many it can develop into harmful patterns, such as overthinking, avoidance, or perfectionism. These strategies might temporarily ease anxiety but can worsen it in the long run.
Let’s explore some practical and caring ways to help someone with anxiety.
Our evolutionary response to fear includes fight, flight, or freeze reactions. Different people have dominant responses, such as avoiding conversations, people, or situations (freeze or flight) or being irritable and argumentative (fight). Understanding how anxiety can present itself helps us empathize with their behaviors. Observing their anxiety patterns allows us to be more supportive and understanding.
It’s crucial to ask people about their preferred support instead of assuming. Research suggests those with avoidant attachment styles respond well to concrete practical support, while those with secure or preoccupied styles prefer emotional support. Tailoring your support based on understanding their anxiety patterns and attachment styles is essential in close relationships.
Help your loved one recognize their anxiety-driven habits, such as ruminating over past interactions, nail biting, avoiding certain situations, etc. Trust and open communication are essential, but ensure they are comfortable with your observations.
Supporting individuals dealing with serious issues like panic disorder, major depression disorder, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking can be challenging. Reassure them that their core identity remains unchanged despite their struggles and encourage them to stay connected to their interests and hobbies. If you have a friend with conditions like agoraphobia (fear of being in open or crowded places) or disordered eating patterns, be accepting and avoid making them feel isolated. Respect their limitations without shaming or pushing them. Acceptance and understanding are crucial in such situations.
Your goal is to help, not cure or relieve their anxiety. Avoid taking too much responsibility and recognize your own capacity to offer support. Set reasonable limits on your support, and remember that shorter, meaningful conversations are more effective. It’s okay to prioritize your own self-care.
By implementing these practical strategies, you become a valuable support for
your loved ones who are experiencing anxiety.