Many people suffer anxiety, and often, it’s in silence as they worry that friends and family members won’t understand or might even ridicule them. But anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting some 40 million adults, so the odds are you know at least one person who suffers from this condition that can close them off to others, which typically makes things even worse.
The symptoms of anxiety can be debilitating, but it’s important to keep in mind that every person is different, and each person has different needs. Some may want to talk about their anxieties, while others would rather it never be mentioned.
These tips can help if you’re not sure what to say to a friend that has anxiety.
Let them know you’re there
Let your friend know they can call you anytime or anywhere. Just knowing that someone will be there to answer the phone and talk through their anxiety can be incredibly comforting. It reduces the lost and alone feeling that often comes with anxiety.
Take part in fun activities together
Keeping active is a great way to relieve anxiety. Try to spend time together outdoors taking part in activities like hiking or even jogging together. Numerous studies have found that exercise is one of the best prescriptions for easing anxiety symptoms, as is spending time out in nature. Avoid activities involving alcohol, which can worsen anxiety.
Anxiety can cause people to become irritated more easily, typically they are not aware of it nor can they easily control their behavior. Anxiety can change neurochemistry. Let your friend know that you understand and aren’t going to give up your friendship because of it.
Ask if they want to talk about it
For some anxiety sufferers, talking about it can help them work through challenging episodes of anxiety or panic attacks. If your friend doesn’t want to talk about it, let them know that’s okay too, but if they ever need to, there is no fear of judgement.
When your friend makes improvements, be sure to acknowledge them, and be proud. Keep in mind that anxiety can change thought patterns, making people think and feel much more negative, which means they may interpret your facial expressions negatively, assuming you’re annoyed with them or ashamed of them. Be sure to highlight your positive emotions and your pride, being happy when you notice recovery, while avoiding feeling too frustrated during setbacks.
Come up with a code word
By coming up with a code word, when you and your friend attend an event, party or anything else involving a large group of people, he or she can let you know when help is needed, or if they want to leave without the fear of embarrassment.
Practice breathing and relaxation
If your friend suddenly starts to experience an anxiety attack or extreme negative emotions, by calmly encouraging him or her to slow their breathing by inhaling, holding for a breath, and then exhaling for a count of four, it can help prevent a full-on attack. Encourage them to practice this daily, if possible, to prevent anxiety from creeping up.
-The Alternative Daily