If you know someone who is struggling with anxiety, then you have probably felt the urge to help them even though you are unsure of where to start. It’s painful to see a loved one feeling weak and tired, and having no motivation to do things they once enjoyed. So if you are witnessing anxiety symptoms in someone you love, the first thing to do is to let them know that you care. If you want to be of further help but don’t know what specifics steps to take, good news because we’ve teamed up with our friends from Brain Wellness Spa to share some of the most beneficial strategies that may help you cope
Educate yourself about anxiety
While you don’t have to be an expert to understand what anxiety entails, you will be in a much better position to help someone with this condition if you know more about it. There are plenty of resources online that discuss the symptoms and the different types of anxiety, so take time to read through those to learn about the links between emotions and behaviors. Once you understand that anxiety is not something people can easily snap out of, you will know not to say things like, “It’s all in your head”, which does not help anyone, and only trivializes the reality of anxiety.
Help your friend to reduce avoidance behavior
Avoidance behavior is any action taken by a person to escape from unpleasant feelings and thoughts. People with anxiety often avoid things they need to do in an effort to sidestep their symptoms. The person you care about may be avoiding social events, job opportunities, and even relationships to keep difficult thoughts at bay. Avoidance behaviors may provide a temporary sense of relief, but it can lead to increased anxiety in the long term, so it’s important to help your loved one slowly face the situations they have been trying to avoid
To help an anxious loved one to break free from avoidance, you can offer to go with them to a social event that they would typically avoid. It can help your friend feel more at ease, knowing that he or she has a trusted family member of friend who can assist them if their symptoms become unmanageable.
Destigmatize their mental condition
People with anxiety often struggle with embarrassment, because they worry that their symptoms will appear when they are in a social situation, and that people will notice that they are trembling or sweating during a presentation at work. You can be supportive to a friend with anxiety by reassuring them that their mental condition is not a sign of weakness, and that your perception of them has not changed just because they are suffering from anxiety. You can also encourage them to participate in hobbies and other activities that you know would keep them busy, and help them feel a little bit better. If your friend is the creative type, help them stay connected to this aspect of their identity by inviting them to help you design postcards or create a collage. The goal is not to make them feel like they need to distract themselves to relax their minds, but simply to make them realize that they are still the same person who can be creative despite their anxiety. However, if you notice that your loved one has become desperate for reassurance, you need to set limits, as this degree of anxiety needs intervention from a therapist who is qualified to devise a treatment plan to treat the condition.
Assist your family member/friend in getting professional help
No matter how much support you give a friend or family member with anxiety, you can’t cure their mental problem yourself. Sometimes the best thing to do for the person you care about is to encourage them to seek professional help. Regardless of what form of treatment your family member decides to get, it will help them navigate their feelings, build emotional resilience, and build better relationships. If they are afraid to see a therapist for fear of being judged by others, show them that you care about their wellbeing, and assure them that they will have your support throughout their therapy process.