Watching someone you love experience anxiety can be really difficult. You wish that you could do something to help but you don’t know what. You want to make it stop for them but you don’t know how. It’s easy to feel helpless when you don’t know what to do.
It’s common for people to want to find a solution for a loved one’s problem but it’s important to keep in mind that your loved one’s experience isn’t something you need to solve or fix. A lot of times, people with anxiety are aware of their challenges and supporting them to learn or use coping skills can be really empowering and give them a sense of control.
So, what can you do to support a loved one with anxiety? Here are three ways you can help!
1. Learn More About Anxiety
One of the best ways you can support someone you care about is to learn more about something they may be struggling with or going through. Knowing more about anxiety can help you support a loved one without accidentally making things worse by being dismissive, insensitive, or offering advice that isn’t very helpful. Have you ever told someone who you felt like was overreacting to calm down? It probably didn’t go over too well!
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time and it is generally a useful emotional response to help us identify things that we feel may be threatening to our well-being. Anxiety can be helpful to motivate us to take action and problem solve and also to pay attention and stay alert. This type of occasional and temporary anxiety is a normal response to stress and a part of life.
However, it’s possible that your loved one is experiencing anxiety that is more persistent and intense that may worsen over time. Though it’s best for someone to be evaluated by a professional, it’s helpful to know whether your loved one’s anxiety is causing distress and interfering with their daily life. Knowing that their anxiety may be more serious, you can encourage and support them to seek professional help if they haven’t already done so.
2. Ask how your loved one experiences anxiety and how you can help
Another helpful way to support a loved one with anxiety is to find out what their personal experience is. How severe are their symptoms? How often do they experience anxiety and how long does it last? Does it interfere with different areas of their life like school/work or relationships? How do they experience it in their body? How are they sleeping and have there been changes with appetite or eating? These are some questions to ask if your loved one has a hard time describing their experience.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, they probably have had a long relationship with anxiety and have numerous things they’d like other people to know. They might express things like “it’s not just nervousness” and “I can’t just turn it off”. Listen with the intent to learn, understand, and support. This will mean the world to someone who might be suffering alone and in silence.
Ask your loved one what you can do to help. This may mean helping them lessen their daily load, like cooking a meal or doing some cleaning, so they feel less stressed or they might want you to listen to them talk through their worries. What they need might change from situation to situation so it’s a good idea to always ask.
It’s also important to find out how your loved one manages their own anxiety. Helping your loved one identify the ways in which they can help themselves can be very empowering for someone who may often feel out of control.
3. Show empathy, compassion, and understanding to someone with Anxiety
Showing empathy, compassion, and understanding towards your loved one is essential to building a trusting relationship in which your loved one will feel that you’re a safe person to turn to in a time of need. People experiencing anxiety are already oftentimes hard on themselves so having someone who treats them with respect and dignity will be very meaningful.
It’s also helpful to be patient with yourself and to have self-compassion. Remember that you’re only human and though you may experience a mix of emotions you are coming from a place of love and concern.
Anxiety is something that almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Offering and receiving support will help lessen the feeling of being alone and will help you feel more connected with those you love.
How We Can Help
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Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Pansy Ayala is a licensed therapist with Catalyss Counseling and specializes in treating adults with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and relationship issues. She uses a holistic, individualized approach to better understand who you are, what areas of your life you find problematic, and how you can reach your goals. She especially enjoys working with parents. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.