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14 Things to Remember If You Love an Anxious Person

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14 Things to Remember If You Love an Anxious Person

Relationships can be hard to maintain, but if the person you love suffers from anxiety, that can open a whole other world of challenges.

A 2014 YouGov survey carried out in the U.K during mental health awareness week found that almost 1 in 5 people felt anxious all of the time, or a lot of the time. Additionally, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S, affecting 40 million adults over 18.

Think about that. Forty million anxious people. If one person cares about each one of them, that means at least another 40 million people are in turn affected by that anxiety. You could probably double, trible or quadruple that number of course. Clearly anxiety is not a trivial condition.

If you are the person who loves or cares about an anxious person, you will know how important it is to listen and encourage them to get help to cope with their anxiety. At times though that might not be enough for you to be able to cope. Remembering these 14 things can help during the tough times.

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1. They are not their anxiety.

Think of anxiety like a really bad head cold. It makes the sufferer unwell enough to not be firing on all cylinders, yet not quite ill enough to be able to stop their lives and seek medical attention. That’s a difficult condition to be in, and for you to deal with. One moment they seem fine and able to cope with the rigors of daily life, and then suddenly the ‘head cold’ has kicked in and everything is bleak. This can be exhausting, leaving you unsure what you can trust or rely on. That uncertainty can bleed into how you view and treat your loved one. Because they don’t seem so very ill, it’s hard to separate the illness from the personality. Remember the anxiety is not who they are as a person (anymore than a mucus-filled head and sandpaper throat is a picture of good physical health). So if they have an “episode” and you’re finding it hard to cope, imagine they are sneezing or blowing their nose vigorously. All you are seeing are the symptoms–not the person.

2. Their anxiety is not you.

People have a sponge-like quality. We gradually absorb things from those we spend time with. Just think how quickly kids pick up mannerisms from watching T.V.

If you spend a lot of time with an anxious person this fact can be good and not-so-good. The danger is that soaking up so much of their anxious behavior can affect how you feel. You might not notice it at first, but at some point you may begin to feel a small hairball of anxiety in your own throat and wonder where it came from. Don’t despair. This can be remedied by building your own mental blockade and reminding yourself of your core values. It can even help to tell yourself–out loud–that you are not an anxious person and that you won’t become one. This kind of self-affirmation can help to protect your mind and develop an immunity to infectious anxiety. See point six for more on this.

3. They may feel trapped in a maze.

Raising and discussing an anxious concern with you once or twice might not seem unreasonable, but if your loved one constantly wants to talk over the same kinds of worries, it can appear as though they are going mad. Often this happens because the sufferer feels as though they are trying to navigate a route out of a dangerous maze and they will not rest until every path has been explored. This is how a whole weekend can end up being consumed on a single topic. Keep in mind that they are trying to get out and don’t enjoy the repetition any more than you. If you both feel like you are working as a team you will resolve things far quicker.

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4. Anxious people are often very nice people.

There is no doubt this is one of the many reasons you love the anxious person in your life. Many anxious people are ruled by a constant dread of hurting others. Being around them may help make you more sensitive to others or delicate situations. Even when they have a bad day, it’s important to remember all their unique qualities (e.g. kindness, quirkiness, good organization, thoughtfulness, cleanliness). Remember that the reason you are helping them manage their anxiety is because they don’t want something bad to happen to those they care about. It still might drive you crazy but checking the root source will help you see it comes from a very good place.

5. Don’t give in to frustration.

Sometimes anxiety can seem to define your relationship, to the point where your own feelings and routines are transgressed. Even though you might be doing all you think you can, it can still feel like you are being controlled. This feeling of being overwritten by the other person can make them seem selfish. This may well be a veneer, with the opposite holding true beneath their surface. It is a frustrating feeling and understandably that frustration might boil over in some (usually unpleasant) way. This venting of frustration will more than likely cause your loved one’s anxiety to increase, thus kicking off a vicious cycle that doesn’t need any more help self perpetuating. You shouldn’t be expected to keep a lid on your feelings either, so it is important to establish clear and fair boundaries.

6. To establish boundaries remember your ABCs.

A – Ask yourself what anxious behaviors or manifestations you can reasonably cope with and which you absolutely can’t.
B – Bring your loved one into a peaceful safe place where you are able to chat. Explain how you feel and then draw your lines in the sand. You are not trying to control them or their anxiety. You are simply stating a few areas where you are unwilling to be told what to do. That is your right and, when done in a calm setting, most anxious people will respond well as it gives their anxiety some boundaries to work within.
C – Choose the moment for this process wisely. Doing it when anxiety is raging, or during an argument, will not produce the same effect. (Surprisingly!)

7. Try not to interpret their anxiousness as a personal accusation.

Your loved one may be carrying around hundreds of worries in their head. Inevitably some (perhaps most) will find voice. Many are about typical things that everyone worries about–paying the mortgage, managing debts, health concerns, appointments, family worries, even worries about their relationship with you. When they verbalize these concerns, you may feel like you are suddenly under attack.  You might hear, “You aren’t making enough money,” “You aren’t handling things well,” “You are irresponsible,” or some other unspeakable crime. Naturally the response when feeling attacked is to go on the defensive. There’s that super vicious cycle again. Very often, leveling accusations and apportioning blame is not the intent, so try to hear what’s really being said, and how it is being said.

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8. Express how you feel truthfully.

If confrontation is not how you handle feeling judged, another trap to avoid is retreating within and closing up, welling resentment up inside you. Those feelings can create a cold, detached distance between you, which can be more damaging for a relationship than the initial anxiety was. Don’t be afraid to say how these thoughts are affecting you. It can be hard, but the chances are your loved one really don’t realize how their words are making you feel. Be truthful. Always. Saying you are fine when you are not will only damage you both.

9. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Though they may be fragile at times, your loved one isn’t an idiot. Often the things they say will be valid observations or genuine concerns. The challenge is not making them feel that you don’t value what they say. They already know that they have a little of the “boy who cried wolf” in them. So when they say something of real concern and you disregard it (like you’ve had to with countless trivial concerns) they may feel crushed. It’s a tricky one, but try to look at their demeanor when they’re speaking–how do they seem? If another non-anxious person raised this with you, would you take them seriously? Are you not listening because you think it’s just anxiety or because you don’t like what you’re hearing? However you answer those questions, remember that open, honest,  calm communication is just what the doctor ordered.

10. If they are open to it, try to help them understand their own anxiety.

“Anxiety is the giant lid we use over the pot of emotions,” explains Fiona Watson, Mickel therapist. “When our anxiety gets worse it can often mean there are more unresolved emotions in our pot.”

It is not your job to be anyone’s therapist but if the moment presents itself some well thought out questions may help them. “When did this feeling start?” “Who/What/Where makes it heighten?” Someone taking an interest in the way their mind is working might just start them on the road to understanding the root of their problem.

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11. It’s not your job to fix them.

It’s not even possible for you to fix them! You can ask questions, be kind, love and support them, but ultimately this is a private battle they have with themselves. You are a cheerleader on the pitch. You cannot participate but you can certainly motivate. Their burdens are not yours to carry but be the best cheerleader you can be (they will adore you for it).

12. Deep breathing never fails.

If it’s all getting on top of you, remember to take some deep, long breaths (and encourage them to do the same). “Breathing in for 7 and out for 11 allows your nervous system to calm down,” says Laura McDonald, reflexologist. “If someone you love is really anxious, the best thing you can be in that moment is calm. Sensing your calmness will help them begin to relax.” So chill.

13. Try to have as much fun as possible.

It can feel like anxiety sucks all the life out of living. It can sometimes make spontaneity, travel, socializing, eating out, and other adventures very difficult and colorless. It is important that you not give in to those difficulties. You may have to adapt your plans and think outside the box, but the greatest gift you can give to the anxious person you love is to help them fight that blood-sucking anxiety. By giving them fun, happy memories to pepper the anxiety filled ones they naturally have, you can help them have more to aim for–more to hope for.

14. Your relationship can become ironclad.

If they do decide to get help fighting their anxiety, you will be a big part of their journey and that can only bring you closer.  Remember: a little anxiety can be beneficial, as it motivates us to make wise choices in life. Work together with those you love and those who love you to find the right balance.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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