How to Keep Up with Someone Dealing with Anxiety
A few tricks to make it easier for you and your anxiety-ridden loved one
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is easier said than done, especially for someone in great distress. No amount of sugar can make life sweet enough for those who know all too well what anxiety and depression feel like. Meanwhile, there you are, wanting to do everything you can to help ease the weight of it all.
Thankfully, mental health is getting a lot of much-needed attention these days. The recently approved Mental Health Bill aims to establish a comprehensive national program to support Filipinos who deal with anxiety and other similar disorders. Here, a few tips to help get you on the same side:
1. Tell them they can be open with you, without any fear of judgment
Suffering from an anxiety disorder is already tough on its own, so when someone with the condition reaches out to you, try to be as accepting as you can.
Listen to what they have to say each time and assure them that you’re not there to judge them in any way. This will encourage them to continue to communicate their feelings and fears because you’ve built a relationship based on trust and acceptance.
2. Don’t give in to frustration
It’s important to remember that anxiety is not only thought-related. It might be triggered by certain situations, but it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that a person can’t help. As such, you can’t expect someone with anxiety to control their emotions as well as others.
Be extra patient with anyone dealing with anxiety. Getting frustrated with them will not help the situation and will definitely not make things any easier for them.
3. Focus on their personality instead of their illness
Anxiety comes and goes, which might make it difficult for you to know when a person has it. They might be completely happy one moment and yet break down the next, which might leave you feeling irritated and them lacking in control of their emotions.
When you start to feel negative, remind yourself that the real enemy is not the person in front of you. So instead of feeding that bubbling irritation, remember who they are—and that isn’t their disorder.
4. Be forgiving
The imbalance in the brain can sometimes make a person with anxiety overly irritable themselves, no matter how hard they try not to be. So instead of clashing with them head on, tap into your compassion, humility and patience.
It will help reassure the person you’re with that their episodes do not and will not change the way you feel or think about them.
5. Establish boundaries for yourself
As much as you want to help someone deal with their anxiety, it’s also important to keep your mental wellbeing in check, too. Be honest about which situations you can handle and which you can’t so that you know when to distance yourself.
The vital step here, however, is to step back into that person’s life when the situation does die down. Talk to them about how you felt during the episode and calmly explain why you felt the need to step away for a while. However, do make sure that it doesn’t sound like you’re blaming them as this might make them feel worse about everything.
6. Try not to interpret their anxiousness as something personal.
Almost anything can cause anxiety—bills, deadlines, family responsibilities, relationship problems—and it might sometimes feel like you’re the trigger for them, especially if the one you’re dealing with can’t properly communicate their feelings.
If this is ever the case, avoid throwing out your own accusations. Instead, keep quiet, let them speak and answer back as objectively as possible.
Dealing with someone’s anxiety is never easy. It will test your patience, maturity and strength of character. But at the end of the day, if you value your relationship with the person, there’s nothing that can stop you from helping them cope with their condition. Remember to keep things as level headed as possible, and—for the love of all things good—never blame them for what they can’t control.