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23 Things to Remember if You Love An Anxiety-Ridden Person

23 Things to Remember if You Love An Anxiety-Ridden Person

Anxiety is something that we all feel from time to time, but for some people it’s something which affects almost everything they do. It can take many forms but most forms leave sufferers managing fear and panic every day.  If you’re the partner, friend or parent of someone who struggles with anxiety daily, there are a few things you need to remember:

1. They feel like they could die from anxiety

Having a panic attack literally feels like it could kill you.  Your heart is beating like crazy, you’re sweating, you feel like you might vomit or pass out.  You feel like you’ll die right here right now – in fact you kind of wish you would because nothing could feel worse than this.

2. They need you to be patient

It can be hard but when you’re not patient, it just adds to their anxiety and makes things a whole lot worse.

3. They need you to be kind to them – which means being kind to yourself too

Being kind goes with being patient, but it’s not easy to be constantly kind to someone who is struggling with anxiety, no matter how much you love them.  You can use up your kind-reserves pretty quickly so it’s important that you nurture yourself too.

4. They know it doesn’t make sense

It’s irrational.  They get that.  Knowing that doesn’t make it go away.  They can’t help it.  Sometimes they worry about how irrational it is… and it fuels their anxiety further.  Pointing out that their fear and anxiety is irrational is utterly, utterly unhelpful.

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5. They don’t expect you to understand

Nine times out of ten, they don’t understand it, so there’s no way they’d expect you to – but they really like it when you try.

6. They don’t think like you

…and that’s okay.  They overthink things and worry about the little things as well as the big things.  That can be frustrating, but it can also be the thing that makes them brilliant.  Their attention to detail and excellent risk assessment skills can be a valuable asset when they’re not causing issues.

7. They like it when you help them find anxiety lifehacks

Think with them about little things that might help.  What can they alter or avoid? Help them research things that have helped other people – finding practical ways to make each day a little easier will make both of you feel better.

8. They hate being talked down to

They’re anxious.  They’re not an idiot.  Don’t talk down to them – treat them like the human being they are, all the time, even during their most difficult moments.  Be kind, always; be belittling, never.

9. They are on constant sensory overload

It’s tiring being an anxious person because you’re constantly in a sense of hyper-alertness.  You’re on the look out for danger, you’re over analysing everything that’s just happened, everything that’s about to happen, everything that’s happened ever…

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10. They will panic less if you stop asking them if they’re panicking

Out of love, we often ask ‘are you okay?’ – but this isn’t helpful at all.  If they’re having an okay moment, nothing’s more likely to rain on that parade than being asked whether they’re okay, which makes them think about it, which might make them realise all the different reasons they might not be okay.  Or they might worry about why you’re asking.

11. They panic more when you panic

Watching someone having a severe anxiety episode or panic attack can be pretty scary and cause us to panic ourselves – especially when the person in question is someone we care deeply about.  However, our panic will fuel their panic so it’s important that we remain outwardly calm and in control – if you need to, you can scream in your head, but only if  your poker face is good.

14. They don’t mean it when they snap at you

Their head is full of really difficult stuff most of the time.  When they’re short with you, it’s not about you, it’s about them.  It’s hard to be nice and calm and sweet when your thoughts are in constant turmoil.

15. They know they’re not the best company

They fully understand that they can be unreasonable and unreliable.  They know that it’s inconvenient and frustrating for the people that love them.  They beat themselves up about it, constantly.  Don’t make them feel worse by reminding them.  They don’t need reminding.

16. They can live a normal life

There’s not a lot that a person struggling with anxiety can’t do.  It might take more planning than for other people, but most things are possible. They don’t need to be handheld and mollycoddled every day of their lives.

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17. They like it when you trust them to challenge themselves

It can be good for people struggling with anxiety to test their limits and try something new. It’s one of the best ways of stopping anxiety from encroaching further and further on their lives and can help them regain a little control.  But it’s hard for us to let go and let our loved ones fly when we know how hard they might find it.  Instead of finding reasons why it’s a bad idea for them to challenge themselves, think of practical ways to make it more manageable, they’ll love you for it.

18. They can tell you how to help them – but not at the moment they need that help

There are lots of practical ways that you can help someone struggling with anxiety, but you need to explore them during calmer moments.  They absolutely cannot tell you how to help them to calm down as their world is crumbling around them whilst they’re tossed in a sea of panic.  After an anxiety incident, reflect on how you could be more help next time – what was good and what was less good about how you tried to help this time.  Explore these questions during quieter, calmer moments and both of you will feel more able to manage the next incident.

19. They can find comfort in strange things

Sometimes strange things will help them.  It doesn’t matter what brings them comfort, it will always be welcome, no matter how kooky. So if you’ve noticed that your girlfriend seems calmer after she’s been dancing it he rain, get your wellies on.  If your brother is less anxious when his books are in colour and height order, get sorting.

20. They might need your help spotting the things that bring them comfort

Sometimes it’s easier to spot this stuff when we’re looking in from the outside.  We might observe them physically calm in certain situations – it might be in response to certain people, smells, places, music etc.  If you notice that something seems to help reduce their anxiety you should never hesitate to point it out and see if it can help again another time.

21. They hurt

Anxiety physically hurts.  Whether it’s the heart-attack type feeling of a panic attack or the aching muscles caused by over-tensing for too long or stomach-aches and headaches it hurts.

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22. They need to be listened to, not talked at

Being allowed to talk and feeling heard is hugely helpful.  It raises their self-esteem and helps them to explore the things that both cause and reduce their anxiety.  Being lectured on the other hand, is unhelpful.  You are more helpful when you help them to talk rather than when you do all the talking.  Ask open-ended questions and never be afraid of silence… whilst you can hear nothing there is often a cacophony of noise happening in their head whilst they get their thoughts straight.

23. They love you too

They know they’re hard to live with, they know that you go to great lengths to support them and they really do appreciate it.  They may not always be the best at showing it but they really do love you too.

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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