Anxiety is a very challenging condition. Very often it is not only the person with anxiety that suffers, but also the person’s friend, family or a loved one. As a friend or family, you are always trying your best to help your loved ones; but sometimes, some of the things we do may (inadvertently) be maintaining their fears and anxiety in the long-term. “Helpless” often describes best how you feel, being on the outside looking in, and feeling powerless over their condition and feelings.
People living with anxiety need the help and support of those closest to them, even in times when they do not admit that. The path to overcoming anxiety is demanding, and it is not a road that anyone should go through alone. Doing things for your loved one and simply being there is a way to help, but knowing exactly which things to do in order to help him/her is the superlative.
If someone close to you has an anxiety disorder, here are some ways you can help.
Educate yourself about anxiety
To understand what your friend is going through and knowing how to help you should start by educating yourself about the condition. Remember that anxiety is not a physical disease, but a state of mind and it is harder to battle feelings that cannot be justified than physical pain. Pain can be dealt with painkillers, and there are no tablets that can alleviate irrational fear.
Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of anxiety, so you can recognize them in your loved one. By the time, you will be able to recognize if they are afraid, disturbed, depressed or any other condition that can be prescribed to anxiety and you will know how to act accordingly. Get familiar with the therapy options so you can discuss them together and all the things there are to know in order to help him/her get better.
Don’t give into the anxiety
Anxiety should not be accepted as a variation of mood and thus be tolerated. It mustn’t be seen as something you should learn to live with and by. By doing that you are admitting to yourself and your friend that anxiety has won the battle over you, which is in no way helpful. The condition is all consuming and exhausting for the one living with it, and the goal can’t ever be learning how to live with it, but rather how to overcome it.
Instead, you should give praise for even the smallest accomplishment and stay positive. Remember that there will be “ups” and “downs” through the journey, but you have to encourage him/her to keep going forward. Also don’t give into their anxiety slumps, if you ask them to go out don’t always take no for an answer. Always encourage them to try new things and to get out of their comfort zone.
Relaxation is one of the best remedies for stress relief. Even in perfectly healthy individuals, stress takes its toll on everyone’s life and we all need to sit, slow down and relax. Stress is a well-known precipitating factor in anxiety symptoms and taking the time to relax can be especially helpful for people living with this condition.
There are many ways you can relax together. You can watch TV or enjoy walks through the park, the options are endless, and you can choose the one that you think will suit you both the best. Yoga and meditation are also known to help in relieving the stress accumulated on a daily basis and especially helpful for people living with anxiety. Perhaps you can suggest yoga classes to your love one, ones that you both can attend.
Remind Them That You’re There
Spend time together as much as possible. Knowing that you are there is a bigger support than you might think. You can exchange texts, or small talks, just to remind him/her that they are not alone. Let your loved one know that you are here for him/her, so they can feel free to contact you when in need.
Let him/her know that they can talk to you about their condition openly, without any fear of judgment. Sometimes, the freedom to talk about their fears without being judged is the sole thing they need. Be that person to whom they will be able to confide, without the feeling that they are going to be judged. Let your loved one know that you will not change the way you think/feel about them based on anything they say – even if they say the same fear over and over and over and over again.
Know Your Boundaries
No matter how much you want to help, you must learn to see when much becomes too much. You should know your limits and make sure that you can balance between being there, and someone they can lean on, while at the same time allowing them their space and privacy.
In some occasions you should be prepared to admit to yourself that you’ve done your best at the moment and back up. That does not mean that you quit your task to help, which you should not do, just give it some time before you try again. You don’ t want to be intrusive and push your loved one away from you, but rather always be close and within their reach so they can count on you whenever they need someone by their side.
The list of things you can do for a friend or loved one presented above is not a conclusive one. You can discuss with your friend or loved one what you can do for them, or discover new ways with time. The important thing is to be there, be supportive and help them with the things they can’t do by themselves, whether that is a household chore, or a feeling they are battling with. It is very important not to treat the condition as if it is non-existent, but rather talk about it, understand what they are going through, explore suggested treatment, and help them on their way to recovery.