Anxiety is a normal part of life. Need someone to talk to? Aventis Graduate School provides pro-bono counseling services by our master’s counseling students. Click here to find out more. A healthy dose of worry is even considered protective since it alerts us to danger. However, if you notice that a friend, family member, or loved one is overly worried about things like daily tasks, their family’s safety, or situations that others see as non-threatening, this healthy level of anxiety may have turned excessive.
It’s distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.
Here are some common signs that your loved ones may be experiencing anxiety:
- They may come across as moody or easily irritable.
- They may seem distracted or struggle to make decisions or have thought patterns like believing the worst will happen and catastrophizing matters.
- They may complain about being tired and not sleeping well.
- They may cancel plans at the last minute and may distance themselves from others to avoid feared situations.
How can we help them?
- Learn to recognize the signs of anxiety and choose to be patient with them
Individuals who are anxious tend to display the above behaviors. It can be easy to get frustrated when they struggle to do things as quickly as before or snap at you over the smallest things. However, extend a little empathy and compassion, as we cannot see their internal battle.
- Help them recognize and reframe unhelpful thought patterns
There is a correlation between one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Anxious feelings can drive unhelpful thoughts, which when examined do not hold up. These thoughts can include catastrophizing (predicting the worst from the beginning), jumping to conclusions, and discounting positive events. Ask your loved one, “Are these thoughts true?” What are some other ways to interpret the situation?”
- Allow them to take ownership over their recovery process
Helping to solve their problems can reduce the ownership they have over the change they want to make in their lives. Also, claiming that “everything will be okay” is a promise we might not be able to keep. In the event that things are not fine, their anxiety increases because they are not prepared. Instead, instil hope by using “even if…” and then working through those options with them.
- Keep an open mind, listen non-judgmentally and validate their feelings
Don’t bring your assumptions with you about what your loved one might be going through or feeling. Instead, allow them to share freely and vulnerably. This provides a safe space for them to sit with their emotions and think through how they can cope with them.
Simply asking, “What can I do to help right now?” and offering to sort things through together can assure them of your concern and love for them. Reassure them that they can cope if and when their feared event occurs, so that they may gain confidence in their ability to get through stressful situations.
While it may be harder to meet up due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, you can still check on your friends by dropping them a quick text or giving them a short call to ask about their day!
- Stay connected and suggest activities you can do together (e.g., watch a movie, exercise)
Bonding activities can release oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of trust, closeness, and intimacy (Dickerson & Zoccola, 2009). This oxytocin reduces both stress and anxiety, and can even increase your loved one’s motivation to seek out more social contact and support. Developing close relationships thereby helps both you and them make better, more careful decisions, decreasing your vulnerability to life stress. It can also promote a sense of hope and security, and this can create a positive cycle of seeking greater social support.
Ultimately, anxiety can feel very overwhelming and difficult to overcome. However, it is possible to mitigate the symptoms of anxiety with a good support system and professional help if needed. Individuals living with anxiety can often feel better by undergoing a combination of therapies, including psychotherapy, medication, and self-management. Aventis provides pro-bono counselling services by our master’s counselling students. Click here to find out more. Let’s strive towards healthier living for our loved ones and ourselves!
Interested to study counselling and psychotherapy? Aventis Graduate School also offers a range of counselling and psychology programmes, click here to find out what are the best programmes for you!
Check out our other article, How can New Year’s Resolutions Benefit our Mental Health!