Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
Everyone will feel some form of anxiety in their lives, but for some it can be a regular occurrence.
This can be very debilitating for the person in question, as it can stop them from participating fully in their daily routine. This may stop people from going out or liaising with others in the long term, or can be triggered by an event or situation that relates back to a traumatic event.
If you know someone who suffers with anxiety, you may feel powerless to help them. Telling them to calm down or get over it will not help. In fact, in my experience, this can make things a lot worse.
Here’s my top 5 ways that you can help someone who suffers with anxiety.
1. Make your help person-centred
There is no blanket response you can give for helping someone with anxiety. Where each person is different, the method to helping them with their anxiety will also differ.
The best way to assist someone is to figure out a plan with them beforehand, as the person may not be able to communicate fully while experiencing heightened anxiety and emotions.
If you haven’t had a discussion beforehand, you may need to think on your feet. Consider the person they are. Do they normally like physical affection? Do they have anything they do or, for example, music they listen to, that aids them with other emotions? You could use these in the meantime as any support is better than none.
2. Stay calm
It can be difficult to remain patient with someone suffering with anxiety. You may feel that their emotion is irrational or, at times, stupid. However, any negativity or annoyance towards the person can make things worse.
It is very important that you remain calm and supportive towards the person to ensure you don’t enhance their feelings.
If you find you cannot stay calm, it may be worth enlisting support to help the person.
3. Acknowledge the problem
While it may be tempting to try to ignore the anxiety or brush it under the rug once the person is calm, this can do more harm than good. By acknowledging the problems or feelings that the person has expressed, you will be helping them feel more confident in managing their emotions.
Some of us also feel ashamed for our anxiety, and that we may be seen as inferior or stupid for it. Acknowledgement can also help by making us feel like we aren’t “bad” for our feelings, and that you don’t think any less of us for them. It can also then assist with the person seeking professional support, as they feel listened to.
4. Ensure your own well-being
While a person may require your help to manage their anxiety, you cannot forget your own needs. Helping someone with their mental health can be very hard and can have an effect on your own mental health.
Make sure you have support to be able to cope with your own health, along with someone else’s. If need be, step back and liaise with professional services.
You need to remember that, as bad as it sounds, your mental health is the most important thing. You cannot help someone else if you are struggling yourself.
5. Don’t allow dependency
It can be easy to fall into routines or patterns when helping someone with their anxiety. You may notice that, any time the person exhibits symptoms, that they turn to you immediately. This dependency means that, rather than working through problems and getting the proper support, your loved one is leaning on you to get through the moment. This may make them feel better but does nothing overall to fix the initial issues.
Try not to allow this to happen. Instead, be there as a supportive figure but also try to guide your friend towards professional help and becoming independent in managing their emotions.
Anxiety can be difficult for both the person suffering and the person aiding. Remember to always speak to a registered medical professional for support with your anxiety, or for advice on how best you can aid someone.
If you, or someone you care about, is in crisis, please remember to check the HELP page for a list of professional contacts.