I struggle with anxiety. Do you?
Did you know that 18% of Americans have anxiety? That’s just adults. Children have it too.
Anxiety can be so tormenting that many people lose sleep, thanks to it. It’s exhausting just to be anxious but to also struggle to sleep? Awful.
Anxiety can cause you to be irritable, restless and fidgety, distracted, and overwhelmed.
Sometimes, in those moments when you’re not anxious, you get anxious worrying that you’re overlooking something that you think you should be anxious about. Vicious cycle, right?
Here are five ways you can help someone close to you who has anxiety:
Listen to them: Ask comfortable questions so you can understand what makes them anxious and why. You may see it coming next time and be able to help ease their anxiety.
Don’t judge: It’s really easy to say “Just relax!” to someone who can’t. Anxiety is a real jerk and we can’t just relax on command. Or just not worry about it because somebody else doesn’t think it’s worrisome. The thing your anxious friend is nerved up about might seem silly to you, but it’s very real to him or her and makes perfect sense.
Create a Distraction: Sometimes that really helps: to get the attention away from the nerve-wracking thought or situation. Without making light of what’s happening, talk about something else, be soothing or funny. Talk about the future and fun plans.
Read a Book: Look up some articles online or read a book about your friend’s particular challenge. Making an effort to really understand them is incredibly loving and supportive and will go a long way to helping your friend feel at ease with you, knowing you care and are trying to understand.
Have Their Back: Pay attention to any signals your friend may have that indicate she’s becoming anxious. Maybe she doesn’t like crowds and feels claustrophobic. Or she feels uncomfortable around strange men (maybe due to an assault). Sometimes crowds bug me. I feel too closed in and here’s a good example. My best friend and I were at a concert a couple years ago (Rick Springfield, of course). We were right at the stage where mobs of other women were packed in. It was hot and we were all literally pressed together. I started to feel a little panicky, like I wasn’t going to be able to breathe. Jen looked at me and knew my face. She said very simply, “Just breathe.” And I did. For someone else, it might not be that simple. But in those two little words, I knew someone had my back, understood, and knew just what to say to remind me that I could, in fact, breathe. It was going to be okay.
Your friend’s struggle stinks and can be prohibitive. Sometimes they may not be bothered at all. Other times in life, it might really be quite tough for them. It might feel weighty for you sometimes as their friend, to have to deal with this too. But let me tell you that it means the world to them and you will be making a tremendous difference in their life and healing process.