How to Befriend an Anxious Person

Having anxiety sucks… But there are some ways you can make it better.

I can start this article by listing down studies all statured with data and an overwhelming number of statistics, discovering that people nowadays experience more anxiety than ever before. But I think one look around our community and friends can show exactly how accurate those findings are without the fancy tests and complicated language. It seems that everyone we know, including ourselves, feels moments of anxiety somewhat regularly. 

And while the intensity of that anxiety might differ from person to person, one thing I found common when observing day-to-day interactions is that we rarely acknowledge these emotions, often worried that we are the only ones feeling them. However, one simple conversation can be all you need to normalize the discussion and help that friend in need or give them a chance to help you. And with these tips, you can do just that, helping any anxious person in your life feel better (even if that person is you).

 

Be the Shoulder They Can Lean on

One of the best things you can do to help out an anxious person is to simply be there. Sometimes that can mean letting them air out their worries and vocalizing their fears, listening wholeheartedly. Other times it could mean showing up to their place, comfort food in hand. And in some occasions, all they might need is reassurance that you’re there for them, even if that just means sitting silently next to them as they work through their anxiety on their own.

Now, you might not always know what your friend needs, feeling completely useless as you’re torn between what to do, but what might surprise you is that the solution to this problem is as simple as asking, “What can I do to help right now?” Even if you know the person well, asking this question might be helpful to remember as anxiety is never linear. In fact, how people experience anxiety can vary depending on factors from their specific diagnosis, personality, and life experiences to the kind of day they’re having.

Being there can also mean just offering your shoulder for them to lean on, not giving any solutions or advice. Don’t we all get moments when we just want to feel heard, our worries validated? Though, again this might differ from person to person, and so the rule of thumb here is: when in doubt — ask. 

 

Do Your Own Research About Anxiety

While there definitely isn’t a one size fits all cure to anxiety, understanding the different forms it can take and its effects on people can be a good starting point to your journey of learning how to help an anxious friend and/or yourself. A couple of lessons that can come from learning about anxiety include realizing that anxious people are triggered by different things, and in some cases, their triggers might not be obvious to even them. Furthermore, while you might think that their fears are irrational, they might not be able to think of anything else at the height of their anxiety. And in the instances where they do feel that their worries are irrational, the process of letting them go can be extremely difficult. 

Learning about anxiety can be highly beneficial as it’ll help ensure you never downplay someone’s emotions or get frustrated by their fears, making your presence more helpful.

 

Make Sure to Check in With Yourself

We all want to make sure our loved ones are happy and would do anything to help them feel content. But what if while helping them you start moving further away from the content place you want to reach? Unfortunately, being there for someone with anxiety can lead to that if you are not careful. Sometimes constantly hearing a person’s worries and fears can result in them manifesting in you. Other times listening to someone vent about their anxieties can be draining, especially if you yourself had a rough day and are feeling under the weather. For that reason, make sure to set some boundaries and take time apart from your anxious loved one to care for yourself and your mental health. 

 

Conclusion

I said it once, and I’ll say it again: anxiety sucks! But with loved ones around it can feel less like a soul-sucking disease and more like a treatable condition. Now, I must tell you that the journey to a more peaceful life and a calmer mind will undoubtedly take time and will have many challenges. However, through the moments of anger, frustration, and sadness, both parties must remember to have patience, respect each other’s boundaries and at the end of the day just come back to one another. 

Now whether you’re the anxious person or the friend helping out, keep going; you’re doing great.

 

 

Photo: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

 


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