Weathering the Storm Together: How To Help A Friend With Anxiety
It’s painful to watch someone we love experiencing anxiety while you feel powerless to help. Anxiety can be an overwhelming and debilitating mental struggle. It affects nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. Today Racing for Mental Health is here to share how to help a friend with anxiety. Let’s get started!
- Educate yourself on the various types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms, and the challenges they present to people who experience them.
- Ask them what they need and then actively listen to their answer.
- Get to know your friend’s boundaries, and don’t push past them to help.
- Give practical support, like helping with household chores, running errands, or attending appointments together.
- Encourage self-care practices to help promote relaxation and mental wellness.
- Anxiety can be a life-long journey, and offering patient, steady support instead of quick fixes is essential.
- Encourage them to consult with a mental health professional who can provide expert guidance and treatment options if they need it.
- Remember to prioritize your mental health while supporting others.
It’s essential to help someone from a place of empathy, understanding, and knowledge. Understanding anxiety is the first step in providing meaningful support. Take time to educate yourself about different anxiety disorders. In addition, learn about their symptoms and the challenges they present. Take a look below to learn about several anxiety disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with GAD often have excessive and persistent worry or anxiety about everyday life events and activities. They often find it challenging to control their worrying. Also, they may experience physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD):
SAD, also known as social phobia, involves an intense fear of social situations. This includes the fear of judgment or humiliation by others. Individuals with SAD may avoid social interactions. This avoidance can hurt personal and professional interactions and connections.
People who struggle with panic disorders often experience recurrent panic attacks. A panic attack is a quick, intense surge of fear. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly. Physical symptoms such as chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, a sense of impending doom, and shortness of breath often accompany them.
Please remember that these are just a couple of examples of anxiety disorders. Your friend may experience something else entirely.
Be Ready To Listen and Ask What They Need
One of the best ways to support a friend with anxiety is to be an active listener. Active listening means you engage with the person speaking and focus on what they’re saying instead of planning the next thing you want to say. Start by asking your friend what they need and then listen to their answer.
It is crucial to be an active listener when supporting a friend struggling with anxiety, and here’s why:
Active listening shows your friend that their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are valid. Anxiety can often make individuals doubt themselves or feel misunderstood. So by actively listening, you provide them with the validation that they aren’t alone.
- Emotional Support
Anxiety can be overwhelming, and having someone who listens without judgment can provide much-needed support. Active listening creates a safe space for your friend to express their anxieties and fears without judgment.
Active listening helps you cultivate empathy and gain a deeper understanding of your friend and the specific triggers or challenges they face. Always allow them to vent their emotions and avoid offering immediate solutions.
While active listening primarily involves empathetic listening rather than offering solutions, it can also lay the foundation for problem-solving discussions. Understanding your friend’s concerns and anxieties allows you to engage in constructive conversations. These conversations help explore potential coping strategies or professional help options.
- Building Trust and Connection
Active listening strengthens the bond between you and your friend. It demonstrates your commitment to being present and understanding their experiences, which helps build trust and deepen your connection. Trust is vital for someone with anxiety, as they need to feel safe and secure to open up about their struggles and seek support.
Know and Respect Boundaries
Respecting boundaries can be difficult. However, it’s crucial when creating healthy relationships with people we care about. Individuals who struggle with anxiety sometimes feel overwhelmed. Certain situations can trigger them. They may need personal space. By honoring their boundaries, you show that you recognize and value their individual needs. You also minimize pressure for them to grow at the pace you think is best.
Respecting boundaries can be tricky, especially when you want to help. So here are a few tips to go about it.
Listen and Observe
Pay attention to your friend’s verbal and non-verbal cues. Notice signs of discomfort or when they express a need for space or time alone. Be attentive to their boundaries and adjust your actions accordingly.
Communicate and Ask
If you are unsure about your friend’s boundaries, ask for clarification. Let them know you want to support them and respect their space but are uncertain how. This helps establish clear boundaries and ensures you’re on the same page.
Avoid Judgment or Pressure
Refrain from judging or pressuring your friend to go beyond their comfort zone. Everyone’s comfort zone is different, and everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique. What may seem manageable to you may be overwhelming for them. Validate their choices and offer support without imposing your expectations.
Recognize that boundaries may change over time. As your friend grows, their boundaries may shift. Be adaptable and willing to adjust your support strategies accordingly.
Respecting boundaries demonstrates empathy, understanding, and commitment to your friend’s well-being. In addition, it fosters trust and allows your friend to feel safe and supported in their efforts to manage their anxiety effectively.
Give Practical Support
Never underestimate the power of helping wash dishes. Practical support can make a significant difference in alleviating anxiety symptoms. Help your friend with everyday tasks that might seem overwhelming to them. Offer to run errands together, attend appointments, or assist with household chores. By lending a helping hand, you reduce their stress levels and show them that they don’t have to face their anxiety alone. Please note it’s important to care for your mental health when supporting someone with theirs. Don’t over-commit. Remember to fill your cup with things that bring you joy.
Promote Self-Care Practices
Encourage your friend to prioritize self-care activities that can improve their overall well-being. Suggest relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. You can also suggest calming activities like nature walks, painting, or journaling. Carving out time each week for self-care can cultivate a sense of calm and create coping mechanisms to help manage anxiety. And while you’re helping your friend incorporate some self-care routines into their week, add in a few for yourself!
Be Patient and Understanding – It’s a Marathon, Not A Sprint
Dealing with anxiety can be a long and challenging journey. Being patient and understanding with your friend throughout this process is essential. Avoid pressuring them or expecting quick fixes. Recognize that progress takes time, and setbacks may occur. Assure them that you’re there to support them without judgment. Remind them of their progress, no matter how small.
Encourage Professional Help
While you can provide emotional support, it’s crucial to encourage your friend to seek a professional for their anxiety. Finding help shows strength! Encourage them to consult with a mental health professional. Offer to help them research therapists, psychiatrists, or counselors in their area. Trained professionals can offer strategies and interventions tailored to their needs.
Let’s Talk About It
Supporting a friend with anxiety requires empathy, education, and a willingness to be there for them. Remember that each person’s experience with anxiety is unique. Some of the above tips may work well, and others may not. Do you want to help others who’re asking how to support a friend with anxiety? Racing for Mental Health has a Community Ambassador Program to help. Our program gives you the tools you need to lead your own group. We want to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health one conversation at a time. Together we can create a supportive environment to empower others to speak out and help out.