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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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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