Do you have a loved one suffering with Anxiety, and don’t know what to do to help?
Do you feel that whatever you do it makes things worse?
You are not alone. Firstly, let’s better understand Anxiety and how it affects people, then we’ll give you some expert advice on helping your loved one.
A few quick Anxiety facts:
- Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions (14% of people suffer from it*)
- Anxiety is the response to a perceived threat by an individual – believe it or not this can help us avoid danger.
- At high levels though, Anxiety can be debilitating and continue over long periods of time.
- The response can be out of proportion and be difficult to manage alone.
What does a person feel when they are experiencing Anxiety?
- Ongoing worry
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling on edge and agitated
- Disrupted sleep
- Tense, headaches and dizzy and faint
- Lack of concentration
Anxiety can be very distressing and there can be many different triggers including; events, social encounters, work or personal stressful situations. These are different for everyone.
Now that you have more of an understanding of how Anxiety may be hindering your loved one, you can feel confident in being there for them without feeling you’re making things worse.
3 Ways to Help Your Loved One –
Firstly, remember that it may be difficult for your loved one to put into words what is happening, what they are thinking or feeling. Don’t feel like you need to “fix” anything. There are a whole range of causes and it’s different for each individual.
- Let them know you’re there – simply talking to them and letting them know you’re there to support them when they need it, is a great start. Offer no judgment.
- Encourage sharing – if your loved one is open to talking about what makes them anxious, ask them to share with you what it was that triggered these feelings? Show interest – what did they think was going to happen? What eventuated?
Remember – you are just supporting and listening, don’t try and have the answers.
- Environment – it’s important that you provide a calm environment, so they feel comfortable and heard. This reduces the feeling of isolation that can come with anxiety.
Remember – your role is not to have to match the experiences in order to be effective.
What to respond with?
It’s hard to say, “I understand” if you haven’t lived the same experiences, however you can say “I’m here for you, is there something I can do to help”? Offer them a cup of tea; suggest a walk together; ask about their day; talk about what they like doing/hobbies.
Try to relax and simply enjoy the conversation. Supporting someone that is worried and anxious requires simple, non-complex conversations.
Things to Avoid
Avoid the stressful and in-depth topics that may provoke negative thoughts.
There is no instant fix for supporting a loved one with anxiety. Help by spending time engaging with them in a positive, calm and caring way. It’s important they know that they have your support. Should you or your loved one need some further assistance, professional support is available. During therapy your loved one will gain awareness, insight and implement strategies to work through their Anxiety day-to-day, however ongoing support from loved ones to stay consistent is important. Not everyone reaches out for therapy, but they may be willing to reach out to you.
*Black Dog Institute (2020)
Written by Dr Kylie Hutching Mangion – Provisional Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au