Anxiety is a natural, scary thing—and feeling overwhelmed is entirely normal. That's why we've put together this guide for anyone wanting to support their partner or family with anxiety. Knowing what to do and what not to do is essential in helping someone get through their struggles with mental illness.
Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived threat. When you're frightened, your body prepares for fight or flight by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This causes your heart rate to increase and blood pressure rise, making it easier for oxygenated blood to reach the muscles in case they need to move quickly. It also triggers an outpouring of stress hormones like adrenaline, making you feel jittery or on edge.
But while this physiological reaction might be helpful in a life-or-death situation (elevating heart rate helps us run faster), it doesn't do anything useful when we're dealing with everyday fears like public speaking or cockroaches crawling across our kitchen floor at night (and really, who likes those things?). In fact, having too much adrenaline running through our bodies can make anxiety worse. If someone feels anxious enough over something minor but doesn't have any way of escaping from their feelings (like running away from danger), those heightened levels could make them feel overwhelmed by panic attacks later down the road!
The first thing to remember is that you don't know what someone else is feeling. You may think they are overreacting, but if you have never experienced anxiety yourself, then it's impossible for you to understand what the person with anxiety is experiencing.
You also don't know what they have been through or how they feel about themselves. Maybe they have tried everything in their power to help themselves, and nothing has worked yet; perhaps their experience with anxiety has been so traumatic that it has completely changed them as a person; maybe this person was once highly confident and now feels worthless because of their condition (this happens quite often). The point here is that there are many reasons why people develop an unhealthy relationship with their mental health and self-esteem, so before judging someone else's reaction or response towards something happening in their life--or even something happening inside themselves--think about whether or not your judgmental attitude could be making things worse for them instead.
Don't try to "fix" it.
First, you should avoid telling your friends or loved ones they are doing something wrong. This can be difficult since anxiety feels so out of place in our society, and it's easy to feel like there must be an obvious solution you're missing. But remember: The best way for someone with anxiety to feel better is by getting help from a professional. So please don't make assumptions about what might be causing their feelings--it could be anything! Instead, try saying something like "I want to help" or "Let me know if there's anything I can do."
If your friend or loved one does open up about their struggles with anxiety and how they're trying to cope (or not), don't tell them how they should fix themselves or what they could do better--this will only make them feel worse about themselves and frustrated with their inability to change overnight. Instead, listen closely while asking questions if necessary; being empathetic goes a long way toward making someone feel understood during this difficult period in their life.
When someone you love has anxiety, it can be challenging to understand what they're going through. Anxiety is natural and takes time to recover from, and it's not something people can control immediately. It's essential for you to be patient with your loved one as they work their way through their anxiety issues.
The best thing you can do is provide support and understanding while they go through this process; don't expect them to snap out of it overnight--or even in the next week or month. You won't help by being impatient or angry at them; instead, try being kind, compassionate, and understanding about what your friend/loved one is going through right now.
Be cautious about advice.
One of the most important things you can do is be cautious about giving advice. It's great that you want to help, but it's important to remember that the person with anxiety isn't looking for a solution; they're looking for support and understanding.
If they ask for advice (and this should always be asked in a respectful manner), give it as best as possible, but don't pressure them into following through on it if they don't feel ready or comfortable doing so.
Ask what you can do.
When someone you love is struggling with anxiety, it's tempting to try and fix the problem--but that can often make things worse. Instead of swooping in like a superhero and saving the day, ask them what you can do to help.
It's important not to assume that you know exactly how they feel or what they need from you: everyone experiences anxiety differently and reacts differently when experiencing it. Some people may want more support than others; some may wish to space instead of being asked how they feel every five minutes (and vice versa). A good rule of thumb is to ask, "How can I best support you?"
Remain calm: Staying composed and maintaining a calm demeanor is important. This can help the person feel more at ease and relaxed.
Find a quiet spot: Suggest moving to a quiet, peaceful location nearby. Sitting in a comfortable place can help the person focus on breathing and minimize external stimuli.
Remind them that it will end: Assure the person that panic attacks always come to an end, typically within a specific timeframe. Reassure them that they are not alone and that they will get through it.
Engage in friendly conversation: Try to distract the person from their panic attack by engaging in a gentle and friendly conversation. This can help shift their attention away from their anxiety and make them feel safe and supported.
Avoid telling them to calm down: Refrain from telling the person to calm down or dismissing their worries. Instead, validate their emotions and offer empathy.
Stay with them: If the person expresses a need for solitude, make sure they remain within your sight. Being present can provide a sense of security and assurance.
You can be a supportive partner and family member in someone's struggles with anxiety as long as you remember not to pressure them or make assumptions about what they need from you.
As a partner or family member, you can help someone with anxiety by listening to them and asking what you can do.
Listen to their needs without judgment or trying to "fix" them.
Be patient with their process of coping with anxiety, even if it takes longer than you'd like it to go by.
Don't panic if they seem out of control--they probably aren't! Anxiety can cause people who suffer from it to feel like they're losing control over their bodies, but all this means is that your loved one needs more support from their loved ones now than ever before (and likely some time off from work).
If you have a loved one struggling with anxiety, remember that it can be challenging for them to ask for help. It may be easier for them to tell you what they don't want or need from you than what they want or need from you. So please keep an open mind about their needs and try not to make assumptions about them before asking questions!
Are you constantly feeling overwhelmed by anxiety? Do you find it challenging to manage your daily life due to the symptoms of anxiety-related disorders? Seek professional help from a therapist who works with anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, like me, to make an enormous impact on your life.
At Untangled Mind, I understand that anxiety can manifest in various ways and affect each individual differently. With my expertise in anxiety counseling, I can provide you with the support and guidance you need to overcome your anxiety challenges.
Using evidence-based approaches, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based techniques, I am dedicated to helping you manage your anxiety effectively. CBT has been proven to be highly effective in treating anxiety and anxiety-related disorders in adults.
During our counseling sessions, we will work together to understand your unique experience of anxiety and identify the underlying causes of your symptoms. We will help you examine and challenge the negative thought patterns contributing to your anxiety through psychoeducation and cognitive restructuring.
Additionally, exposure therapy will gradually expose you to anxiety-provoking triggers in a safe and controlled environment, helping you become less sensitive to them over time. Relaxation techniques and problem-solving strategies will equip you with tools to reduce physical symptoms and cope with stressful situations.
By prioritizing self-care, recognizing faulty thinking, and exploring new coping styles, you will experience a significant reduction in anxiety and an improvement in your overall well-being.
Don't let anxiety hold you back from living your best life. Take the first step towards healing by scheduling a session with me today. Together, we can overcome anxiety and build a brighter, more fulfilling future.
For more information about my anxiety counseling services, please visit https://www.untangledmind.net/anxiety-counseling.