Experiencing anxiety, to some degree, is normal and can be helpful. It’s what can keep us motivated and on task to get things done that we need to. It can even help us solve problems that we are facing.
At some point, anxiety becomes less than helpful.
Many people throughout the world are experiencing chronic anxiety. Each year, more people are getting diagnosed with anxiety, known by its clinical name of Generalized Anxiety Disorder(GAD.) This means that, unfortunately, you likely know someone who is suffering.
If you know someone who has anxiety, you might feel lost trying to help them through it. You want them to feel relief from the weight of the world that is on their shoulders. While anxiety is a challenging condition, there are definitely things you can do to help them. Here are a few.
4 Ways To Help Someone With Anxiety
Education, about any mental health topic, is an important first step. If you aren’t sure about what it means to have anxiety and the associated symptoms, don’t hesitate to research. While anxiety may impact your friend or loved one differently than other people, the signs and symptoms of it are generally the same.
Once you have a better understanding of what chronic anxiety is, it can help you feel more prepared to help your person out.
2. Validate their feelings
When we feel stressed, it’s due to external factors such as a job interview, meeting, or having a lot to do that week. Chronic anxiety is different because the worries aren’t tied to one specific thing.
It’s a constant battle of feeling like something is going wrong. They just don’t know what. It’s knowing that what they might be worried about is irrational or not founded on anything concrete.
Even if it seems silly, don’t invalidate their feelings by saying things like, “I think you’re overreacting,” or “It can’t be that bad.” Instead, listen to them and ensure that they know their feelings are valid and heard.
3. Help them find ways to relax
Wanting to relax and finding the ability to do so are different things. As much as someone wants to, that doesn’t mean they can.
Suggest relaxing activities you can do together. Ask them if they want to grab dinner, go to the movies, or walk together. Exercise is just as important for mental health as physical well-being. It releases endorphins into the body that can help decrease the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the good hormones such as serotonin.
Often, someone with anxiety will feel like they are getting help simply by not being alone. It can be a welcome distraction away from the never-ending cycle of thoughts that they are experiencing.
4. Encourage them to talk
No matter what is going on with someone’s mental health, it can be an isolating experience. Many people don’t want to open up about their struggles with anxiety or depression. Even though society is better, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues. Many people don’t want to open up to others because they don’t want to feel like a burden. Or that they only want to talk about themselves.
Tell them you are there for them if they need someone to talk to. Feel free to tell them that while you might not fully understand what anxiety feels like, you know what it’s like to be human. To struggle and fight with thoughts and feelings that cause stress and worry. You don’t have to push them, but knowing someone is there to talk to them if needed can help them.
Finally, encourage them to reach out to a counselor to explore the possibility of starting anxiety therapy.