How You Can Help People with Anxiety
Anxiety is something that comes and goes for all of us, for some people though it sticks around unnecessarily. Sometimes it feels harder to work out whether your friend is struggling than to know how you can help people with anxiety. I feel privileged as I get an insight into the minds of other people. Essentially, I regularly hear the other side of the story. While you sit at home wondering what you have done wrong, I hear that your friend is ignoring you because she is struggling so much to get through a day. Reaching out to others is just too much. Whilst you feel that you are burdening him because he hasn’t returned your calls for a week. The reality is he might not have the strength to put on the brave face he feels he needs to answer your call.
How to help someone with depression and anxiety
Whilst anxiety and depression are not the same thing they can manifest in similar ways. You might notice that your friend avoids going out and seeing other people. It is particularly noticeable when your friend stops doing things they previously enjoyed. Both anxiety and depression have physical symptoms. Anxiety can cause the heart to race and changes in breathing. Your friend who feels anxious might become sweaty and shaky. When someone feels depressed their speech and movements may become slower or faster. Their eating habits may change, and their energy levels may drop. When someone feels anxious or depressed, they might struggle to concentrate.
There are everyday things that will help someone with depression or anxiety for example taking a walk. You will help your friend by finding enjoyable walks to do together. The more natural the better. Some people might find it easier to agree to this if they do not feel that you are doing it only for them. Dig deep and find the reasons it benefits you too and share this with your friend. Let them know that you can help each other.
Diet affects mood. Many people battling the feelings that come with anxiety or depression struggle to find the motivation to cook and eat. If you have the capacity, cook a little bit extra when you make your dinner and drop it round to them. A batch of frozen meals once a week that your friend can heat up quickly and easily will make the practical aspect of their life simpler. Lack of nutrition correlates with depressive moods. If you help them to increase the nutrition in their diet it might help them to feel a little better too.
How to help someone with social anxiety
When someone experiences social anxiety, they feel constantly judged and fear negative judgement. It does not matter if everyone is looking in the opposite direction, someone with social anxiety will feel like the spotlight in the room is on them. It is important to listen to your friend – actively and respectfully. Hear the way they say they feel and try not to dismiss it. This is difficult when you recognise their beliefs as irrational. Instead of debating whether the other people are or are not judging them, looking at them, talking about them etc help your friend explore their physical feelings. Sit with them whilst they allow the feelings without trying to rationalise them or stop them.
Anxious thoughts are mostly about the future or past. A person feeling anxious is rarely in the present moment. Use the five senses game or other mindfulness techniques to help your friend bring their mind back to the present moment.
How to help a child with anxiety
It helps everyone when they understand why their body reacts in a way they do not understand. When your child is feeling calm explain to them what anxiety is and why the human body reacts the way it does when it senses danger. The human thinking brain becomes overwhelmed by the primal brain during a moment of anxiety so trying to explain anything that requires conscious thought in a moment of panic is not beneficial. However, when your child is already aware you can help them in the panic moment by speaking to their mind with them, together you can come up with a good phrase, such as; “thank you brain alarm, for looking out for me. I’ve checked and I am safe right now because … keep up the good work and bye for now”.
If appropriate, use touch to help your child’s mind revert to the default state. Stroke their arms or back in a gentle way. Some people believe that a gentle touch helps the brain create serotonin which is relaxing and soothing.
Anxiety can make the chest feel tight and breathing difficult. Help your child to place their hand on the belly button and breathe so that the hand rises. By doing so they breathe deeply into their abdomen rather than the chest. Try to help the child exhale for longer than they inhale to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and slow their racing heart.
How to help someone having an anxiety attack
Whilst there are many different reasons that people experience anxiety, the symptoms are the same. When you wonder how you can help people with anxiety know that you can use the same techniques for adults as children and the same techniques that help someone during a moment of social anxiety will help someone experiencing a panic attack. Always remember that the stronger the anxiety the less present the human thinking brain. Expecting someone to think rationally and hold a conversation during an anxiety attack is asking too much. Help them bring their mind back to the present by staying close, using the senses, and accepting their feelings.