Anxiety is a normal human experience so, because of this, it is sometimes hard to know when it’s becoming a problem for your loved ones and people you care about. You often feel helpless and don’t want to just tell them to “stop worrying”. As much as you might find it hard to understand why seemingly small or normal things make them feel uneasy, try not to judge or pressure them. There are various things that you can do to help them deal with their feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety – Find out more about the condition
If you want to help someone, the first thing you need to do is to find out more about the condition and how it affects the individual person. Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. We can all feel anxious. It’s a natural part of the human condition, and it’s a protective mechanism, along with its big brother, panic. Anxiety keeps us on our toes and ready to act if the outcome of a situation isn’t what we need. It keeps our system sharp, so in controlled ways it’s a good thing.
Around 8.2 million people in the UK experience anxiety and a new study suggests that women are almost twice as likely to suffer from it as men.
Researchers analysed 48 of the highest quality studies on the subject and found that 4 out of every 100 people are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. The main types of anxiety disorders are:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
Listen to the person affected
Don’t be afraid to ask your loved one about what is causing them to be anxious and really listen to what they have to say. Just by verbalising their worries, the person may find that their thoughts become better organised and thereby they become calmer. Often people just want you to be there for them. You don’t need to say anything or do anything, just be there.
Be patient with them
Many people with anxiety jump to negative conclusions and feel that people are unhappy or angry with them. Don’t become irritated or frustrated by this and try to calmly talk through things to try to resolve the situation. Don’t be surprised when they appear indecisive and don’t take it personally if they are reluctant to make plans or cancel a planned get together.
Keep them company
Hanging out with friends and loved ones increases levels of endorphins, making the anxious person happier and distracting them from their worries. Recent research by the University of Oxford found that people with large circles of friends had higher pain thresholds and the same can be applied to anxiety. Ask the person if they’d like to join you in an activity or even just to meet up for a coffee and a chat.
Take them seriously
It is never a good idea to trivialise the person’s anxieties by telling them to “get over it” or “stop worrying”. Even if their fears and worries are irrational, try to sympathise with them and help them come up with a workable plan.
Don’t push them too hard
Anxiety can cause people to be in a hyper-tense state which can be both physically and mentally exhausting. So remember this and bear it in mind when asking them to take part in an activity. Don’t confuse tiredness with unwillingness and try to tread gently in this area.
Look after yourself
If you spend a lot of time with a person suffering from anxiety, it can sometimes have a negative effect on your own mental wellbeing. Be sure to spend time doing what you enjoy if you start to feel exhausted or overwhelmed.
There are many ways to overcome anxiety and it’s important to find a way that suits your friend or loved one. Whether it’s medication from their GP, a more hands-on solution such as exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness, or seeing a counsellor or therapist, finding a personalised combination of methods can help your loved one get back on their feet.
If you would like to read our other articles on different aspects of anxiety, simply enter the word “Anxiety” into the Search box at the top of our website.
For advice on natural remedies for anxiety, you can read our earlier article by clicking on the link.
If you would like more advice and information, you may like to visit the website of the mental health charity Mind by clicking on this link.
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