Have you ever wondered how to help a friend who struggles with anxiety?
You wouldn’t believe how many people ask me this question. This is because most people feel clueless when it comes to how to help a friend who is suffering from anxiety issues.
The first thing I can tell you is that (in my opinion) you should NEVER say “it’s going to be fine.” This is a common response. And in truth, it’s the last thing we want to hear.
While anxiety isn’t life-threatening, it may not be “fine” today, tomorrow, or even next year. In fact, your friend may struggle with anxiety his or her whole life.
To your friend, it’s not fine. And in telling your friend this, you’re dismissing his or her concerns. Your friend doesn’t feel like everything is fine, so you’ve got to be empathetic in a supportive way.
It’s like when you have the flu-saying it’s fine doesn’t make you feel better, right? You still feel sick. However, good old TLC and chicken soup might make you feel a little better.
In this respect, the most important thing is to listen. Ask your friend what he or she needs. And ask about the anxiety itself. Then listen.
If your friend has asked for advice, suggest productive solutions. For example, you can suggest calming activities like mindfulness, adult coloring books (hugely popular) or yoga. You can also ask if your friend wants to try calming activities together, as in attend a yoga class as a pair.
That said, many people don’t like “fix it” responses. They really just want you to listen. So my best advice is to feel your friend out. Fish around for what he or she needs. Is it reassurance, solutions, or a simple hug?
In addition, suggest treatment options. Has your friend seen a therapist? If not, can you offer to go with your friend by offering a ride or going to a first therapy session as a team?
Further, remember that anxiety takes time to overcome. And some people never overcome this struggle. This is why you’ve got to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same goes for anxiety management.
Finally, read up on your friend’s struggles. A great place to start is with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.
Remember that knowledge is power. The more you understand your friend’s situation, the more comfortable you will feel when it comes to offering a helping hand.
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