How can you help someone you love that is experiencing anxiety?
I speak a lot about anxiety and solutions to allow you to overcome it. In this article I want to give you an insight as to how you, the loved one, can also support and help your special person when they are experiencing anxiety – as I know this can be scary and overwhelming at times.
Anxiety is experienced by so many of us, every day, in all sorts of settings and journeys. It is not just the person experiencing the anxiety that struggles, but those who love them dearly. Those that want nothing more than to make that person smile again and feel comfortable.
This article is for you! The supporters, the loved ones, the family and friends that see anxiety every day.
I will be sharing 4 strategies that you can implement, from today, and start feeling like your efforts and love are having a positive impact and purpose, when facing anxiety.
Don’t fill the silence
It is a natural instinct to want to fill the silence when someone is upset. Feeling like you should have all the answers and know just what to say, in that very moment. When your loved one is experiencing anxiety they want to feel these things;
They are being heard
They are not alone
Being fully present is the best gift you can give. Knowing that they can share openly, cry honestly and explain all of the irrational and controlling thoughts that pass through their mind, is of priceless worth in that very moment. Saying nothing can and does hold just as much impact and saying lots and lots of things in a panic and with uncertainty.
Giving reassurance and verbal prompts is enough to give your loved one the reminder of security.
‘I am here.’
‘You are not on your own.’
‘We can work through this together.’
‘Just breath, I am with you.’
‘We will get through this.’
These statements have no emphasis on the current situation, the anxiety itself, or distract from that very circumstance. You mean them all, they are all true and you can say them with conviction and love. These words are so powerful and mean so much to your loved one. Instead of questions, comments and statements that relate to their actual thoughts (which they will know are irrational or extreme) because anxiety is talking!
2. Physical contact
Physical contact speaks so much louder than words when anxiety is present. That physical touch automatically reminds your loved one of some fundamental truths;
You are there and they are not alone
They are in the present, and can be grounding and brought back to that space
It can be so easy to want to cuddle your loved one and hold them until the emotion and anxiety fades. However, the most useful and effective way to show physical contact is to do so in a way that still allows your loved one to freely express their emotions and not feel they need to stop, so that you don’t worry. Holding their hand, stroking their back, placing your hand on their leg or neck, is a physical sign that you are there and you are there for comfort, but you are not going into ‘protection mode,’ which innately makes the loved one feel guilty for making you feel bad or worry that until you feel better, they will be worried.
3. It isn’t personal
If your loved one needs space or expressed their need to be alone – grant them this. Create a time limit with them and say that you will come back in 5 minutes, 10 minutes (a time that is comfortable for you) and try again.
Sometimes they will just need time to get ‘the worst’ out and feel they can do so without guilt or judgement.
As long as you create a time limit, you and them know there is an end point. Your loved one knows they won’t be alone for too long and you know and can prepare to offer support, as well as respect their need for space, if they request it.
4. Honesty with rational
Always be honest. If you don’t know what to say, tell your loved one that. The last thing they need, is to feel like you are just there because you feel obliged. By being your genuine self, being open, being honest and being real, they will find comfort in this and know that your care is authentic and something you can work through together.
Ensure you always create rational for your loved one, when they are least able to create it for themselves.
When statements like these are said;
You will need to step in and become their voice of reason and truth. Remind them of their progress, their successes, their good days and happy memories, their value, their relationships, their strength. Remind them that every emotion fades and this one will too. It is OK to take time to feel down, but always remember you will get back up and you will feel better.
These conversations are honest, but also rational and your loved one will need this in bucket loads at times, so be sure to become the grounding force during those times.