Anxiety can make you feel very alone. It can isolate you from friends and family as you fear no-one understands what you are going through. A world full of triggers feels overwhelming, and it is easy to fall into a spiral of fear and shame. There are however small things we can all do to help someone with anxiety:
LET THEM KNOW YOU’RE ALWAYS THERE
When my anxiety got really bad at the age of around 17, the only person I could count on was my mum. I had friends but I was so withdrawn I didn’t feel I could talk to them. Fast-forward to my mid-twenties and I have a handful of friends I can count on anything for. As you get older you learn who is really there for you or not. This is why I am open about my mental health and I know I can talk to any of them about my struggles if need be. If you know someone who is struggling, just letting them know you are there to listen to them or rant to can be a real lifeline.
Social situations can sometimes be too overwhelming for someone with anxiety. I had to cancel on numerous plans throughout my late teens when I should have been out enjoying myself. I just couldn’t leave the house and my ‘friends’ at the time were not understanding or forgiving at all; leaving me feeling even more isolated. Be forgiving and understand that sometimes it would be detrimental for an anxiety sufferer to force themselves to go out.
TALK ABOUT THE GOOD TIMES
I don’t know about you, but I love being nostalgic and talking about past memories. There are always good times to talk about, and this can help a little positivity and fun into someone’s day which they may really need. Bring up some fun times you had together or dig out embarrassing old photographs to have a laugh about.
BE THEIR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER
Anxiety can be such a drain that people can lose all self-confidence and belief as I well know. Knowing that my family and close friends were cheering me on really helped me to keep going when times got hard. This doesn’t mean you need to conjure up grand gestures all the time, it could be as simple as giving them compliments or congratulating them on victories however small.
Sometimes all someone needs is an ear willing to listen. For me, my mum was my shoulder to cry on and person to go to when all I needed was a rant and cry to get overwhelming emotions out of my mind. Be willing to listen and be that outlet if needed.
HELP THEM WITH PLANS
Sometimes with anxiety, you never know how you are going to feel when you wake up. Will you wake up refreshed and feeling motivated? Or will you struggle to get out of bed and do the most basic of tasks? Feeling overwhelmed can easily cause procrastination, so if you know someone is struggling with their anxiety ask if you can help them in any way or see if they need help structuring their day or week. Having someone there to help organise the day can be a real help when you don’t feel like you can do it yourself.
MAKE PLANS AHEAD OF TIME
Spontinaity seems like a fun idea, but to someone with anxiety, the concept can be terrifying. In my late teens and early twenties, I had to have everything planned out as early as possible so I could make sure nothing could go wrong. Not everyone can mentally deal with being spontaneous; and that is totally ok! So if you have a friend with anxiety, try making plans in advance as it may make it easier for them to commit.
GET SOME FRESH AIR
Encourage your friend or family member to get outdoors with you. When I was in the grips of anxiety I found it impossible to leave the house on my own and skipped a lot of school as a result. Even if it is for a walk around the block, encourage your loved one to go on a walk with you to burn off some anxious energy and get some fresh air.
It sounds super simple, but it can actually change someone’s day. Social media and texting can be an ordeal for someone who suffers from anxiety. Even to this day, if someone doesn’t text me back within a couple of hours I get paranoid that I have done something to annoy them or they are angry at me. It is very irrational but I can’t help it. We are busy and I get that in some situations you just can’t text back within the hour, but to help your loved one, try to text back or let them know you won’t able to get in touch for a few hours. It will help to put their mind at ease.
DO THEIR FAVOURITE THINGS
If you know what your friend or family member loves to do, organise to do it together! They may not feel brave enough to go and do it on their own and it would be a really supportive thing to suggest to them. It could be as simple as watching their favourite films, taking an exercise class with them or eating at their favourite restaurant. Anxiety can zap the life and passion out of you, so to help keep their fire burning for what they love would be so beneficial to them.
LEARN THEIR TRIGGERS
Be aware of what may trigger anxiety in your loved one. If you are out and about with them it can help to have someone looking out for triggers that could make their anxiety become worse. If you don’t already know, simply ask them. Also understanding what makes them feel better when anxiety hits is a very compassionate thing to ask.