How to Help a Friend Conquer Their Anxiety
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
Although anxiety is becoming increasingly common, it’s still something that people often feel the need to go through privately. Anxiety causes people to worry about their sanity, their health, and what others will think of them. Regrettably anxiety is one of those conditions that carries a stigma where some people think you should just snap out of it, have an early night, have a cup of tea and sooner or later you'll be able to pick yourself up and carry on.
Understand that Anxiety Causes Real Suffering
One of the most helpful things you can do for a friend who is suffering from anxiety is to really try and think about what they’re going through. Imagine how you would feel if you felt terrified to go out of your house and face a normal day at work. Imagine anticipating the awful symptoms of a panic attack: a pounding heart, gasping for breath, or feeling like you might pass out. Then top it off with the fear that this could happen at any time: while shopping, driving, at work, at a social gathering.
Anxiety seems to strike randomly and without warning, how might that feel to your friend? And how would you feel if it happened when you were with others? How would you explain it? Would you feel foolish? Embarrassed? Or would you feel like running out of the room because you can’t cope?
Never think it’s just anxiety. Know that anxiety is a big deal, it’s crushing and it’s life spoiling. It’s easy to think we’d know how to cope if it was us - until it is us!
Let Them Know You Care
You can’t know exactly what your friend is going through, but you can let them know you care. Tell them that you understand it must be awful for them, and let them know you’re there for them.
One of my closest friends has this great way of hearing me out if I’m having a tough time and then saying “how can I help?” Sometimes that’s enough. Knowing that I’ve been heard by someone who really cares and that they are offering practical help as well as emotional support is priceless.
Asking how she can help is also part of her open hearted nature. She listens to what I want to say and then she asks me how she can help rather than assuming that she knows how I need help.
So ask. How can I help you? What do you need?
Break Down the Barriers
Anxiety can be incredibly lonely. Sometimes others are scared to reach in and sometimes the sufferer is scared to reach out. But connection is essential in overcoming anxiety, so roll up your sleeves and offer a hug, a rub on the back, hold their arm, or a hand, grab what you can and connect! Let your friend know you care by your definite physical presence and it will help them to feel safe and grounded.
See the Bigger Picture
We are not our illnesses. Your friend may be suffering from anxiety, but they are not just anxiety. They have many talents, roles, and character traits. Let them know that you see them and appreciate them beyond their anxiety. If you find them funny - tell them. If you find them kind - tell them. If you can remember times when they’ve shown courage, or wisdom - tell them. Anxiety feels like it takes over everything, but from the outside you can see more than symptoms, so be sure to offer positive, heartfelt feedback.
Your friend is suffering, right now it’s beyond their control and they can’t help it. Let them know it’s OK. We all suffer sometimes. We all lose it sometimes.
It’s hard for someone in the grip of anxiety to learn techniques that can help control it. Often they feel too confused, or they’re suffering too much to try something that seems too simple. As a friend you can do a little research and learn an anxiety breathing technique, or try a guided relaxation for stress and anxiety - pick a technique that you feel might be useful and learn it thoroughly. Start with something simple and experience for yourself how it can help you reduce stress and feel calm, then share it with your friend and encourage them to practice it.
When anxiety strikes it sets off a vicious cycle of symptoms that are hard to stop: rapid breathing, racing heart, dizziness, maybe even physical pain. As the sufferer acknowledges these symptoms, they escalate. Knowing how to break the loop and start to calm things down is priceless. You can help your friend by learning how to slow the breath and use it to calm down a racing heart and mind. And once you know how to do this you can use it for yourself, your kids, family and other friends. It’s one of the most useful life skills you can acquire.
The Slayer Store has a collection of anxiety relief techniques designed to talk anyone through how to control anxiety and move into a place of safety and personal resourcefulness.
Image credit Jeff Bauche._.·´¯)