Dealing with anxiety can be incredibly stressful. It can be even more so when the person suffering from anxiety knows it’s affecting their relationships and friendships. As a person that cares for someone with anxiety, never forget they are going through enough already without having to deal with the extra pressure of acting as if everything’s okay for the sake of their loved ones. If someone you care about suffers from anxiety, there are many ways you can help them get through the rough times in life.
1. Be accepting
First and foremost, don’t be a fair-weather friend. If you truly care about someone, you’ll be there for them through the good times and the bad. It might be difficult for you as well, but helping a friend through their anxiety shows that you are genuine, and you’re not going to leave your friend to deal with his issues on his own. Accept their anxiety as it is: a disease of the mind. Your friend is sick, so it’s important to be there for them when they need you the most.
2. Be educated
Understand the root causes of anxiety. It’s not something a person can simply “snap out of.” It’s a disease caused by a chemical imbalance in the person’s brain which causes physical as well as emotional distress. Don’t downplay a friend’s anxiety, thinking they can simply “get over it.” If they could, they would.
3. Don’t bring it up
Be cognizant of a friend’s anxiety, but don’t exacerbate the issue by calling attention to it. When making plans, think of activities that are fairly calm and aren’t too stimulating; but don’t say things like “Well, I’d ask if you want to go to a concert, but I know you hate crowds.” Obviously, this will only make your friend feel as if he’s holding you back from doing something you actually want to do, and that you’re taking pity on him. Take your friend’s anxiety into consideration, but sweep it under the rug during conversation.
4. Be active
Get your friend up and out of the house as much as possible. Hiking, playing a sport, or simply spending some time outdoors can alleviate a lot of the symptoms of anxiety that he probably feels on a minute-to-minute basis. Anxiety creeps in when the mind isn’t busy, so just “hanging out” will increase the chances of your friend having mild to severe panic attacks. Stay active, and keep his mind off of the anxious feelings that plague him during downtime.
5. Be yourself
Don’t feel like you have to be a different person around your friend. People who suffer from anxiety might be sick, but they’re not dumb. They’ll notice when you’re acting differently or walking on eggshells around them, which will only cause more anxiety for them. If a person who suffers from anxiety wants you around, it’s because you give them a sense of comfort by just being you. So be the person you always are around them. It will keep them grounded.
6. Be resilient
At times, it can be emotionally exhausting to be there for someone suffering through anxiety. But that’s the case any time you find yourself supporting a sick friend. Do your best to help your friend, especially when they’re at their worst. They need you more than ever, and they truly appreciate everything you do for them.
7. Don’t take it personally
Your friend might need some alone time, and might be distant for a while in your relationship. That’s totally fine. If they need their space, give them space. Don’t think they’re ditching you; they probably just don’t want to drag you down with them. Make it clear to them that you’ll always be there for them when they need you, but you’ll also give them time and space when they need you to back off.
8. Separate them from their anxiety
Your friend is not anxiety personified. In fact, their anxiety is a small part of who they are. They’re still the person you grew close to all those years ago, despite the recent changes that may have occurred within their mind. Remind them of who they are, especially during times when they truly don’t feel like themselves. The best way to help your friend through this difficult time in their life is to remind them of who they really are.
Featured photo credit: Hand / Jeff Kubina via farm2.staticflickr.com