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7 Simple Ways to Help a Friend with Anxiety


Photo: Dan Belieu for Vogue Arabia December 2019

Whether it’s the Covid-19 pandemic or a rise in social media use, anxiety levels around the world are through the roof. It goes without saying that the pandemic has certainly exacerbated the problem. It’s a difficult road to navigate, whether you suffer or not. Friends and relatives of those who experience stifling anxiety can feel powerless to help, themselves experiencing stress and worry in the process. But there are some – relatively simple – ways to help and a little friendship can go an awful long way, even if it’s not always obvious. Here, find tips on how to help from the experts at meditation app, Calm.

Listen deeply and compassionately

“Ask your friend how they are and listen with your all, without thinking how you’ll respond. Practice being totally present and in the moment, acknowledge their feelings, and thank them for sharing them with you. Avoid phrases like ‘you’ll get through this’ or ‘you’re okay’.”

Don’t try to fix them

“Remember that no one is broken. Your friend has likely already done a lot of research in a quest to understand their anxiety, so fielding more – well-meaning – suggestions may feel like an extra burden, and make them feel like they’re a problem. Instead, celebrate their personal victories when you know they’ve conquered something especially hard, and know that you don’t need to hide your own difficult issues from them because you’re worried they will be too much for them to cope with. The intention might be kind, but we can all sense when someone is keeping something from us, which doesn’t feel good.”

Understand that anxiety looks different on everyone

“Anxiety can manifest as deep tiredness but, equally, it can also cause sleeplessness. It can be experienced as restlessness, agitation, and an inability to concentrate. It causes irritability for some, and irrational fears in others; while some experience frightening chest pains and uncomfortable muscle tension. The diverse and, sometimes misunderstood, symptoms of anxiety are real, so keep it in mind and let your friend know you understand that.”

Also Read: How to Beat Anxiety When Going Back to Work Post Lockdown

Ask them what they need

“There are different ways of managing anxiety. Meditation and breathing exercises, for instance, are helpful for a lot of people – and may be for you – but they might not help your friend. Some people need to do something active, like a run, to help theirs. Ask your friend what works for them and how you can help.”

Check in regularly

“If they seem anxious when you’re together, ask them about it. In putting it out there, you let them know that, with you, there’s always space for their anxiety – it doesn’t need to be avoided, and they’re not a burden. You can also ask if there is something you could do to help, however, sometimes in the midst of panic it may be hard for them to know what that might be. If they aren’t sure, offer to go somewhere quiet together or take a walk outside.”

Be aware of your impact

“If you’re going to be late, let them know. Equally, if you don’t have time to reply to an email or text, give a quick explanation so they aren’t left to worry. Anxiety can be an inner bully – it convinces people they are burdensome. Make a conscious effort to reassure them. A simple ‘I love hanging out with you’ (and not just when they’re calm) will mean a lot to them.”

Hold your own boundaries

“Always remember that it’s important to take care of yourself too. Do the things you want to do and let your friend know they can trust you to take care of your own social and emotional needs. When they are asking for more than you have to give, let them know. For example: ‘I love you. I can’t talk now, but let’s have coffee at 2pm tomorrow.’”

Read Next: How Anxiety Affects Our Skin – and What You Can Do About It

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