Most people come wired to respond to situations with the fight, flight, or freeze response. By understanding and paying attention to how anxiety manifests itself in your loved one, you will learn their patterns and be able to help them. It is essential to listen to them non-judgmentally, and if they are wondering why you are inquiring about them, tell them you are concerned and what signs you have noticed. Usually, asking them what type of support they prefer is better than guessing. Two common ways can include displays of concrete practical support or emotional support depending on whether they prefer specific options for how to deal with difficult situations, or respond better knowing they are a part of a strong team. It is also important to make sure they are included in giving insight into their own anxiety. People suffering from anxiety often tend to think about worst-case scenarios. If this is the case, ask them these three questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- What’s the best that could happen?
- What’s most realistic or likely?
Try not to overly reassure your loved one that their fears won’t come to pass, instead emphasize their coping ability. An excellent example from greatergood.berkeley.edu is “if they are worried about having a panic attack on a plane, you could say that would be extremely unpleasant and scary, but you’d deal with it.” If your loved one is anxious about someone being angry or disappointed in them, it is often useful to remind them that they can only choose their own actions and cannot control other people’s responses. Sometimes we feel the need to “help out” by doing things for our loved ones and feed their avoidance. Do not take over their feelings or actions; let them make their own choices and decide on how to proceed with a situation that is making them uncomfortable.
For those who suffer from more severe issues such as panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking, you can still be supportive in many ways. It can be helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasn’t changed, they are not broken, they’re still the same person, and the issue they are facing is just a temporary problem. Mental Health First Aid states to encourage them to try some self-help and other support strategies such as relaxation training, meditation, self-help books based on cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise.
Original articles: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_help_someone_with_anxiety
Featured Image: Gemma Correll