It is hard to be a supportive friend or family member especially when we don't have the tools to help those who suffer from anxiety. Oftentimes, even though we see the warning signs we stay quiet because we don't know what to say or how to best approach the situation. Firstly, those dealing with anxiety aren't necessarily ticking time-bombs. Most people are only looking for someone who will hear them out without any judgement and believe them when they share the madness that goes on in their minds.
People that battle stressful thoughts and anxiety are most likely to be quiet and will try to fly under the radar. They feel like if they talk they might burden the listener, so don't say unhelpful things like it's all in your head, stay positive, it'll be alright because these things form the crux of their anxiety. While these messages or statements come from good intentions they will just not help change how they feel. So here are a few helpful things you can say instead.
If you have loved one's and friends dealing with anxiety, these are probably things they would feel relieved to hear from you:
1) Thinking of you this morning
Follow that up with why? It could be because you listened to a great video on affirmations or meditation or you simply had to share your nostalgia about a wonderful memory you share with them. Sending a message like this just allows them to know they are loved and cared for and shows them that you don't need a response.
2) I know what you're going through is hard and I'm here for you
If you've battled anxiety too then you can always add that because then they can relate to you. They won't feel like you're trying to cure them and it's a great way to make them feel less alone in their struggle. But saying the above sentence is comforting to a friend to know that you'll have their back and you validate and respect how they feel.
3) You've made it through your lowest lows and I'm so proud of you
They've obviously discussed their anxiety with you at this point. You can thank them for talking to you about how they feel because this means they trust you. You can say how having anxiety must suck and how much stress it must add to their life. Saying these things validates their experiences, it means you're listening and acknowledging their feelings instead of giving advice and trying to fix things.
4) Would it be helpful if I came over to hang out
See if they are ready to share space, if they say yes you can check and see if they'd like to take a walk because it's a relaxing activity that can calm one down. Either take their favourite food over, have a couple of movie suggestions ready. If all this seems overwhelming to them, just offer to sit in silence with them and make sure to add that you won't feel insulted if they don't want to hang it. It's very important to let them know that you respect their boundaries. And if they do end up cancelling last minute, make sure to let them know that they are safe and they can make choices that help them and you'll still always be there for them.
5) What can I do to help and support you better?
I find this question most helpful for myself, as someone dealing with anxiety, it allows for an open dialogue where I can share what my needs are in that moment. It allows the person with anxiety to recognise that the friend is openly offering the help and that they aren't asking or putting the friend out instead. It shows that you recognise your own limitations and aren't faking knowing what to say or how to react to their struggle. You could also offer to help with groceries or cleaning or anything you know that they might find hard to do.
6) You're stronger than you know
Send reassuring messages like the above, here are a few more examples. I care about you a lot. I love you and I'm here to listen if you want to talk. You are enough. You're doing the best you can. I believe in you and I know you will get through this. These statements make it clear that you understand the gravity of their struggle but it reminds them that they've come this far and that they can pull through. Doing anything with anxiety is 10X harder than things are for people who don't battle anxiety and now they know you get this.
7) I know it doesn't feel like it right now but you won't feel like this forever
Send them hope-filled messages because anxious feelings will fade and this is exactly the reminder they need.
PSA: All of this sounds like a ton of effort and if you don’t have the mental bandwidth yourself, it is possible to offer love and support without burning yourself out. Do whatever you can and within reason. It’s alright to not know what to do and worry about how to help your friend but just by offering a listening ear and saying you’ll be there for them no matter what can really help your friend get through their tough times. And do your best to not offer unsolicited advice, no one likes that.
What would you text a friend or loved one dealing with anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.
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