Do you know someone in your life who lives with anxiety? Perhaps it’s hard to understand how they feel—they seem to panic suddenly, they avoid social situations or appear to be lost in their own thoughts. Individuals living with anxiety have a lot of potential for hope, healing and recovery and they need your support. Here are some tips for effectively communicating with them.
First of all, it’s important to strive to understand anxiety so that you can better understand the reasons behind your friend’s actions. Be aware that not all of their actions will seem rational and that they know this already. It also helps to understand that anxiety is overwhelming and exhausting, so being patient can go a long way. Above all else, don’t forget that this person is more than their anxiety and that they shouldn’t be defined simply by this mental health condition.
Supporting and encouraging individuals living with anxiety is one of the best ways of communicating with them effectively. Some phrases to avoid include:
- “Calm down” – if they could, they would.
- “Just get it done” – tough love can actually create more anxiety than inspiration.
- “Don’t worry about the little things” – for someone living with anxiety, no worry seems “little.”
Instead, try to acknowledge the way that they feel using statements such as:
- “That’s a terrible way to feel” – this acknowledges their feelings, rather than diminishing or trivializing them.
- “Would you like to [include an activity] to try to take your mind off of that?” – this may not always work, but an activity can sometimes work better than simply telling that person not to worry.
- “It’s ok to feel that way” – this helps to reduce guilt that people living with anxiety often feel.
Above all else, remember to remain patient and not to take these worries personally. Give that person time to sort through their thoughts (because there are a lot of them) and express to you how they feel.
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