I’ve suffered with anxiety ever since I was in grade school. Along the way, I’ve had friends who didn’t really understand what I was going through (to be fair, I didn’t really understand it then, either), and I’ve had friends who were very kind and supportive. On the flip side, I have also had friends who suffer from anxiety as well. Here are some ways I have found help either myself or someone else when their anxiety is running rampant.
Allow them to talk about it
I know when I’m feeling particularly anxious, it helps me if I can talk about my feelings with someone. Sometimes, I just need to rant and figure things out myself. If I talk about something enough, I can sometimes realize that what I am feeling is irrational. But other times, it can be reassuring to have a conversation with someone who can help me see a situation for what it truly is. Or sometimes, they will let me know that what I am feeling is valid and appropriate, and that I’m not overreacting like I thought.
Make them feel comfortable
In the last month or so, I had two instances where I was invited to things that I wasn’t really comfortable with. They both involved large groups of people where everyone knew each other, but I would only know my friend who invited me. My friend reassured me that I didn’t need to go if I wasn’t comfortable with it, but the offer was on the table if I wanted it. By letting me know I had the choice of opting out, I felt a lot better about declining. Otherwise, I would have felt compelled to say yes, only to later freak out about being in a situation I didn’t want to be in in the first place.
Know the warning signs
Everyone handles their anxiety differently. Some people might not stop talking about whatever they’re thinking, while other people might bottle it all up until they have an anxiety attack. Personally, I’m the former and I’ve noticed that I also fidget and have trouble concentrating when my anxiety gets bad. Make sure you know how your friend typically reacts so you can try to soothe them before their thoughts get any worse.
Let them know they can reach out to you
I always feel like I’m bothering my friends when I text them late at night with whatever is on my mind at that moment. But one day, I was talking with one of my friends and they told me to reach out to them whenever I wanted to talk about something, no matter what time it is. That made me feel a lot better knowing that I had my own little support system.
If you’re not sure, ask
Don’t know if they want to talk about it? Don’t know if they want to do something to distract them? Don’t know if they want a hug? Ask them. Assuming what they need at that very moment could make them even more anxious. In this case, asking for permission might be better than begging for forgiveness.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I know how to treat anxiety disorders. If you or someone you know needs help with their anxiety, please seek the help of a medical professional.