If someone you live with – whether it be offspring, a partner, a sibling or a parent – is experiencing anxiety, this could understandably distress you. Furthermore, you could be eager to rush to their side to offer support, but remain unsure how exactly you can. Anxiety can seem a mysterious beast to people who have never or rarely experienced it with themselves or others; however, the following pointers can assist you in relieving much of the anguish and restoring mental health.
Pursue some anxiety-busting pastimes with them
There are particular practices that can work well for treating anxiety; furthermore, they can be, quite simply, fun activities, even if you take the whole issue of anxiety out of the equation. Good examples cited by Psychology Today include physically exercising and attending yoga classes. So, don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of these activities and invite your anxious friend to join you with them.
Encourage that person to resist avoidance behaviour
It’s tempting for people that are affected by anxiety to assume that, if they avoid something that makes them anxious, the anxiety won’t arise and, therefore, won’t be a problem. However, while that might initially seem to make logical sense, this practice can actually produce a snowball effect…
When someone puts off anxiety-causing tasks, they are likelier to experience a rising number of intrusive thoughts regarding it. With that person, you could talk through what steps they should take to prevent such avoidance behaviour remaining habitual.
Reassure them about their anxious thoughts
Anxiety can itself be responsible for creating anxiety, thereby making an existing problem even worse. Hence, it’s worth reassuring the anxious person that not everything they are fretting about is actually particularly unusual even for people who are relatively mentally healthy.
Fearing being judged, for example, is understandable for most people. Similarly, worrying about asking someone for something, only to be told “no”, is not particularly strange.
Be the calm in the other person’s storm
If you see a fire burning, the right approach to addressing it isn’t attacking it with more fire. You can make your worrying friend feel better if you have an accepting, rather than judgemental, attitude towards strange habits that might be helping them deal with their mental anguish.
In an article for The Guardian, Paul Culshaw, then 32, from Liverpool, recalled of his “good friend”: “If I needed to leave a cinema, she knew. If I needed to pace up and down the living room, she let me get on with it.” It was “amazing”, he said, that she never made him feel like he looked mad.
Accept that you don’t have all the answers
However much you try to help relieve your loved one’s mental pain, don’t expect to be capable of relieving them of their issue. Instead, arrange for them to seek therapy; they can access this at a reduced cost after they have signed up for membership of Anxiety UK. A year’s membership costs a mere £30 a year and can also bring them specialist email support. You can even sign up for a Family Membership and have your entire family be supported through the difficult times anxiety can bring, starting from £50 a year. Make sure to check out our Caregivers Guide to Anxiety (Instant Download).Written by our CEO, Nicky Lidbetter, the guide is the first of its kind in the UK, and offers information and advice to individuals supporting those with an anxiety disorder. It contains practical tips and methods to enable caregivers to provide support in a way that is beneficial to both the sufferer, as well as the caregiver.