Supporting A Friend Who Suffers From Anxiety
By Kunal Sutar
It’s never easy watching a loved one experience anxiety day in and day out, but there are ways you can help. Aiding your loved ones begins with identifying the signs of extreme worry and learning the best ways to provide support for them. The most effective way to support them will differ from person to person, so don’t give up hope!
Listening to them can work wonders. Ask them how they’re doing and be patient with their response. You don’t have to have the perfect response planned out. Just be present with them and accept their feelings. Speak life and reassurance into them! Let them know they’re not alone in their anxieties and thank them for being vulnerable with you.
Don’t try to fix them – they are not broken human beings. Chances are, your friend has probably done their research on anxiety and the most effective ways to cope with it. You aren’t a licensed counselor! Suggesting too many coping mechanisms can often feel like an overload. The person you love has been single-handedly surviving the crippling effects of anxiety. They’re strong and brave for experiencing what they do. Celebrate their personal triumphs with them!
Let the anxious thoughts fall where they may. That might feel counter-intuitive, but let your friend know that they can be anxious with you or a counselor. Assure them that you understand anxiety isn’t something they’re choosing to carry. Let them know that their anxieties are valid, seen, and allowed to be felt.
Ask your loved one what they need. Each person with anxiety has a different means of coping. Meditation and breathing drills work for a large number of people, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for your friend. Some people cope through an active lifestyle – going for runs and visiting the gym. Ask your friend to seek professional help to find ways that will work for them.
Stay present! Anxiety is challenging enough with proper support – you don’t want to space out on them. Your friend may want to try a variety of different treatments or coping mechanisms. Do it with them! It doesn’t seem like such a daunting task when you have someone to walk alongside you.
Remember that anxiety looks different on everyone. Anxiety can look like intense exhaustion that leads to insomnia. It can look like restlessness, distress, or an inability to focus. It can look like irritability or unreasonable fears. Anxiety can be experienced as intense chest pains or rough muscle tension. The symptoms, while often misinterpreted, are very real. Let your friend know that you care to learn about their experience.
Keep checking on them! If you sense their anxiety, check in with them in the moment. Questioning them allows them to feel a safe space with you. They are free to bring light to their anxiety without feeling burdensome. It can often be difficult for your friend to identify what would be helpful during an anxious episode. If this happens, you can offer to sit with them, talk with them, or even pray with them.
If you’re choosing to walk through anxiety with someone, thank you.