If someone in your life is experiencing anxiety it can be hard to know where to start in terms of helping them.
We all know what anxiety feels like, don’t we? Before a job interview, or when we’re trying to make a big decision. Small doses of anxiety are really normal – they’re part of being human. But when those feelings become regular and persistent, there could be something going wrong. Take a minute to think about what that would feel like. It could get pretty lonely, couldn’t it?
If you’re witnessing this in someone you care about – whether it’s a colleague, a friend or a family member – sometimes the main thing is just to let them know that you care. If you want to start a conversation with them about what they’re experiencing but aren’t quite sure how to do it, we’ve outlined 5 key steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Understanding the basics of anxiety
It’s important to note here that you don’t have to be an expert – if you’re worried about someone, you don’t have to have all the answers before you start a conversation. Sometimes just showing you care and giving them a chance to talk is the most important part.
With that said, trying to understand a little more about anxiety and anxiety disorders might help you to understand what the person you care about is going through. It’s important to recognise that anxiety is a real medical issue which impacts people’s mood and behaviour and which they often have no control over. It isn’t something that will be helped by advice like ‘just relax’ or ‘calm down’, and recovery will often involve the support of a healthcare professional.
Step 2: Getting to know the symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety can present in many different ways. Here are some of the more common symptoms:
- An irrational and ongoing sense of worry or impending doom
- An inability to relax
- Ongoing uneasiness and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- An inability to concentrate or focus for extended periods
- Sudden and unprovoked feelings of panic
Step 3: Getting a conversation started
Sometimes getting a conversation started can seem like the biggest hurdle. These are some things that might help:
- Think about a good time and place to start the conversation: where, and when, are they likely to feel calm, relaxed, and comfortable having a chat?
- Be ready to listen. Anxiety can be isolating and sometimes just giving someone a chance to talk it through can be a really important starting point.
- Don’t feel like you have to offer advice straight up or solve all the problems they’re experiencing. Again, being a good listener is a great start.
Step 4: Things to keep in mind
- Don’t rush it – take time to listen to their experiences
- Be a friendly, non-judgmental listener
- Let them know that you understand that it’s a real illness, that it’s very common, and that it can be overcome with professional support
- Offer possible solutions like seeing a doctor or anxiety specialist. Connecting with a professional can be key in their recovery. Maybe you could help them make an appointment, or offer to accompany them?
- Of course, if you have any concerns for their safety, or that of others, contact a doctor or hospital immediately.
Step 5: Afterwards: how should you follow up?
- Be sure to check in on them and follow up. Let them know that you’re here to support and help however you can.
- Be someone they can talk to about their feelings and experiences, or about concerns they might have around seeking professional help.
- Take on board what they’ve shared with you: be aware of the things that might contribute to them experiencing anxiety.
- Keep in mind that you can always seek out professional guidance to help you as well.
Anxiety is complicated and helping someone can feel challenging. And while it might feel unfamiliar, sometimes a simple conversation with someone can be an important step towards getting them the professional help that they need. Your mental health is important, if you’re struggling with Anxiety or other emotional and mental illnesses then reach out to a mental health clinic near you and get advice on how you can get back on your feet.