Living with anxiety is such a strong resilient thing to ever exist. Battling with this takes a lot of mental energy, a lot of reassurance, and a lot of strength, courage; a lot of silent moments where you silently pick yourself up together when a seemingly peaceful moment seems to be your worst nightmare. How to show up with a friend who has anxiety? For those who have loved ones; and friends who are living with anxiety, there are a lot of ways to provide much needed support, reassurance; things to make them at ease and things that might bring them comfort.
We urge you to be open about anxiety because it is real, and those who have this are valid human beings; and mental health is something we should be taking care of as much as we take care of our physical attributes. So, what can you do to show up with your friends who have anxiety?
Listen with a kind heart that care deeply, and compassionately
It takes a lot for them to speak their truth and say what is on their mind; or what is bothering them because they are thinking firsthand if that is true, if that is worth thinking, worth sharing; if they are overreacting. The thing is our feelings are valid, you are supposed to feel that way, and no one can tell you otherwise as to how it should affect you. So, listen to their anxious mind and ask how they are, listen with the intent of listening; not thinking how you should respond. Acknowledge their feelings and avoid phrases such as “It’s not that big, you’re making that up, or you’re completely okay”. Lastly, thank them for sharing their stories and trusting you to be their companion.
Do not try to fix them, there is no need to be fixed
People with anxiety are people who feel things deeply; if there is a description that will ever not suit them, it is calling them broken. And your friend is likely to have researched their anxiety; to help understand themselves and to cope with it and you fixing them, might have the notion that you think they are a problem. Let go of the urge that they need fixation, and just provide support, encouragement, positive self-talk and most important of all; an ear and arms to listen and hug to.
Do not act upon helping them, without them telling you to do so
When it comes to show up with a friend who has anxiety. First off, you really should ask the first “What I can do to help you” so that they themselves would know what would be helpful for their situations rather than giving an act of help that might do more harm than good. Asking first will reveal what your friend needs, if helping, or just support, or just venting, or simply, silence. Either of these four, your act goes a long way and you also deserve recognition for that.
Provide validation and express concern
Words have powers. They can either be healing or damaging and the choice is always on us. Many things can make people with anxiety anxious; and saying something dismissing like “Why are you making a fuss out of a small thing”, “Are you really going to be upset over that; get over it” invalidates their struggles that might cause them to just let their thoughts fill their mind, and this belittles what they have experienced.
Their anxiety is their battle, and it does not have to make sense, even in the most little way to us. It is helpful to remind ourselves that what they are experiencing is very much real, valid; and worthy of all emotions they want to give them.
People with anxiety tend to be overwhelmed as well in certain situations, be it if they are new to them or they are used to doing it. One way to know if their anxiety is getting bad is if they tend to withdraw from things they enjoy doing, and or feeling sad, off, weary, and in this case, your concern can be powerful. Start by asking them how they are feeling, and then go to say things that bring you concern or curiosity, ask if you can do anything to help, and or support in coping with what they are experiencing.
Let your goofy side out !
With all the wholesome heart to heart conversation; and much needed support and concern that you have successfully given to your anxious friend. A great ending to have is a good laugh with them. Let those worries come to pass with great laughter, this is proven to ease those anxious minds and relieve stress and worry. Afterall, we really want to make them smile and cheer their spirits up, right?
I want you all to applaud yourself for taking time, and effort to commit a loving and caring friendship with those with anxiety. Researching ways to show up with a friend who has anxiety is a really great and helpful thing to do, and I thank you for trying. At the end of the day, may we prioritize our mental health and spread genuine kindness and support for those around us, it goes a long way and you are making our world a little better in doing so. We hope you learn some tips on how to show up with a friend who has anxiety.