How to Support A Loved One Struggling With Anxiety
Whether you know a friend, sibling, partner, coworker, or parent struggling with anxiety, we often find ourselves hoping to support them the best we can. We might feel desperate to help them but it is crucial to know first, that it is NOT YOUR JOB TO FIX IT.
Instead, try these 4 tips to help support a loved one:
“How can I support you right now?”
We may assume we know the right thing to say or do or have the impulse to SOLVE their problems and feelings. But simply asking our loved one what they need most right now is the most effective way for you to show them you have their best interest at heart and are there to listen to exactly what they need.
This may be the hardest step for our busy and conditioned minds. We are so preoccupied with doing, solving, thinking, and acting, that we rarely stop to listen and just be with someone. It is essential that we know how to actively listen to our loved ones- research shows that the feeling of being HEARD decreases the intensity of somatic feelings. Make time, sit, use eye contact, and just listen.
Validate their feelings. Anxiety can often create a cycle of shame. Your loved one may think that they shouldn’t be feeling a certain way which only makes the underlying feelings stronger and more debilitating. To validate you may say something like “wow, that sounds really ______ “ “I can understand how that would feel ______”. This makes them feel understood without judgement or the pressure to fix anything immediately!
4) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! (model)
It is equally as important to be taking care of yourself when a loved one is suffering. This is paramount to being able to continue to support them in the future and also provides some modeling for your friend, partner, parent, or loved one. Take a walk, a bath, feed yourself well, practice good sleep hygiene, and treat yourself with kindness.