Helping someone with anxiety can be challenging.
It can test your patience.
You can literally feel like you have no idea what to do.
It can also be the most rewarding thing you could ever do.
If you love someone with anxiety, it’s so important to be someone they feel comfortable with; someone they trust.
When you have anxiety – it can be life changing to just know you have that support network – even if it’s only one person. It can make such a difference having someone there to love you, to support you, and guide you through the darkness.
If you want to help someone with anxiety, here are some tips I suggest:
- Be mindful they may not know what they want. Now I get it – this sucks. How can you help someone when they don’t know what they want? Anxiety can literally mess with your head so bad you feel like you don’t even know yourself anymore. If their energy is having to go into surviving each day – please don’t expect them to also be think about what the magic cure is and give it to you on a plate. Yes it might take time and a bit of trial and error – but we all deserve to have someone whose the strong one for us, every now and then.
- Listen. Now I don’t just mean sit their quietly whilst they vent. Actually take the time to listen. It’s probably so hard for them to verbalise how they feel – so try and pick out any key point and address them. Look at our certain emotions or trigger words – is there anything you could do to help this?
- Don’t be afraid to take control. Whilst mental illness does not make you a dependant invalid – sometimes it is so important to just be able to switch off. Having a rough patch with anxiety most likely means this person is struggling to control their thoughts or emotions. Don’t be afraid to be assertive. Make sure they go to any appointments, take their medication, look after themselves etc. Don’t wait around for them to tell you what to do.
- Be reassuring. When you feel like your life is falling apart, having reassurance is literally the best comfort blanket going. Tell them you’re there for them no matter what. Tell them you’re going to listen to them. Tell them they’re allowed to talk to you. Tell them you love them.
- Remind them of who they are without anxiety. Anxiety can sometimes become your own and only identity. It’s so important to show someone whose struggling that you still see the person that they are. That you know they’re in there and you love them.
- Educate yourself. Whilst it is important for someone with anxiety to be open and share things with you – you can also be doing things to help. Read up on mental health, or start noticing certain triggers and be aware of them. If you found out someone you loved had a physical illness, chances are you would be expected to learn about it, and notice the symptoms – mental health is no different.
- Validate them. Even though someone with anxiety may have heightened feelings, or irrational thoughts – these are still real to that person. Let them know that what they are feeling is okay. You will get through it, you will help them get better – but everything they feel is valid. No one wants to feel like what they’re going through isn’t real. Pain is still pain – no matter how distorted it is.
- Be with them. Some people with anxiety may really need their personal space, but that doesn’t mean you cannot be with them. Make sure they know that they have you if they need you. Whether you’re sitting on opposite ends of the sofa, cuddled up in a bed, or a phone call away – let them know you’re there with them.
- Be patient. What worked the first time, may not work again. Just because they could talk it through last time they had a flare up, doesn’t mean they can now. You might find it frustrating – but it won’t be anywhere near as frustrating for you as it is for them. Imagine feeling constantly afraid and not knowing why or what to do about it? Imagine having such real, and intensive thoughts but not knowing how to explain them? Be kind.
- Do nice things. When life totally sucks, it can be really nice to be gifted with a little note to cheer you up. Run them a bath. Put your favourite tv show on. Help with practical things too; when you feel like you have to sort out your whole life, it can really take the weight off your shoulders if you know you’re going home to a clean house. Having anxiety does not mean you do not like fun or happy things. Little surprises can have such a huge impact on someone’s mood. Who doesn’t love something nice being done for them?
- Love them. Whether that means just holding them whilst they cry, cooking them their favourite food, or sending them a cute text. Show them that you love them. When you have anxiety you can feel like an absolute failure to everyone around you. You feel like a burden. No one should ever have to feel like a burden. Surround them with love and warmth, and create a safe space for them to heal.
Obviously, there are so many other things you could do. Everyone is different, and everyone responds to different types of support. Make sure you take the time out to really learn about mental health and the support you can give.
It may feel like a tough job – but I promise, they will be forever grateful for the support you’ve shown them. And I am sure, that once they’re feeling better again – they will ensure you also feel loved and on top of the world.