Chronic anxiety is an intense, persistent problem that can become extremely disruptive to a person’s everyday life. Living with anxiety is a struggle, and part of that struggle is often feeling misunderstood. If you don’t suffer from anxiety, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to help when you see someone struggling.
Here are ten things people with anxiety want you to know and do:
1. Try to Understand Them
It’s important to understand that things that are easy or come naturally to you may be difficult for someone with anxiety. Talking on the phone, meeting someone new or being in a crowded place can feel extremely overwhelming, causing stress and fear. Instead of being annoyed or angry, try to understand what they’re going through and be there for support.
2. Comfort Them
Panic attacks can often arise in those suffering from anxiety, and they can be terrifying. If your friend or loved one experiences a panic attack, be there for them. Hold them, hug them or try the best you can to calm them down and remind them to breathe. Stay with them and talk them through it, then make sure they’re OK after it passes. Move them to a quieter place when it’s over and do what you can to help.
3. Learn How to Calm Them Down
People with chronic anxiety often need a distraction from their frazzled minds. The constant stress and overthinking wear them out, so talking about happy memories is a good way to calm them down. Guiding them to a happier, calmer place within can lessen their anxiety and allow them to focus on something more positive.
4. Pay Attention
If you spend a lot of time with someone who suffers from anxiety, you’ll begin to notice what triggers panic attacks. Be aware of what’s going on around you and keep an eye on your friend or loved one. If you notice uneven breathing, shaky hands or legs, a flushed face or a nervous demeanor, do what you can to prevent or calm an impending anxiety attack.
5. Stick to Your Plans
Those with anxiety are usually planners. They like to have a set schedule. If you have plans, stick to them. People with anxiety don’t like surprises, so give them as much information as possible about your plans so they can prepare.
6. Find Activities to Ease Their Anxiety
If you’re making plans with a friend who suffers from anxiety, a loud and crowded bar, club or festival might not be ideal. Try planning something more calming like crafting, painting, yoga or going on a nature walk.
7. Don’t Question Their Anxiety
Don’t tell anyone with anxiety that they are overreacting, or that it’s all in their head — you’ll only make it worse. If you don’t understand what’s going on, ask gentle questions. Accept that they have anxiety, and try to learn as much as possible so you are able to help when needed.
8. Invite Them to Relax
Just being there for someone who has anxiety can be enough to help them relax. You don’t need to plan a special day. Just having coffee or laying in the grass looking at the clouds is relief from a busy environment or an attack.
9. Check In
If you don’t live with them, check on your friend or loved one regularly to show that you care. Living with anxiety can often feel lonely and confusing, so make sure that person knows that you’re there for them.
10. Don’t Make Them Feel Abnormal
Don’t make someone feel weird because of their anxiety. You might not fully understand it, but you should always make them feel loved despite their struggles. They deserve love, affection and compassion just like everyone else. If your friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, show them that you care and that you’ll always be there to help. They’re actually much stronger than you might think.