Emotions are running high across our little country right now. People are scared, worried, stressed, angry, and lonely. There’s chatter everywhere about what’s right and wrong, what should and shouldn’t be happening. Some of that chatter might be on the news, it might be in your school or college, it might be in your home, it might even be in your own mind. Everyone is REACTING because that’s what we do and that’s ok.
Have you noticed a friend that’s been a little quieter than usual? Just not themselves? They could be struggling with anxiety. There are a lot of things people with anxiety wish they could tell people who don’t suffer from it. We are going to give you some gentle ways to support a person with anxiety because being kind costs nothing and you never really know when a person needs some kindness. And hey, before we go on, it’s not your job to “fix” your friend’s anxiety, or make it go away (as much as you’d love to do that for them!), this article will help you to understand it so that you can support them 😊
1. Understand they might not want to talk right now.
It could be that they don’t reply as quickly as they usually do, they might be avoiding your call or they might leave a zoom call early. You might not realise it, but a person suffering from anxiety (especially someone who is trying to hide it) uses A LOT of energy to appear ok. Anxiety’s natural responses are “fight” or “flight“. So in this case, your loved one might feel uncomfortable because their anxiety is becoming too much and their response is “I need to get out of this situation ASAP“. Please understand, this is not your fault, you did not cause their anxiety to spike. Anxiety is unpredictable. Just let them know that when they are ready and feel up to it, you are there to listen to them and to validate their feelings.
2. Brain fog is a real thing, so have patience.
Overthinking and anxiety go hand in hand. People who suffer from anxiety are constantly overwhelmed with thoughts. So, when you are having a conversation and they say “sorry, what?” or “could you say that again?” multiple times in a conversation, please be patient. They can have a tough time processing a lot of information and they really don’t mean to not listen to you. Patience and not getting annoyed is key here.
3. Learn how to spot signs they are having an anxiety attack.
People with anxiety tend to learn coping skills in order to get through intense feelings of anxiety. This could include (but is not limited to) being on their phone in a social situation, a limited amount of conversation, lots of fidgeting, or a lack of eye contact. These are all simple signs your loved one is uneasy in that moment. By being aware of these signs, you can hopefully try to get them out of the current situation. Ask them would they like to take a minute outside for some fresh air. Most importantly, try your best not to draw attention to your loved one. This can make them worry a bit more, but don’t forget you are learning and trying your best. You will get there.
4. Know they may lash out at you, but really don’t mean it.
Anxiety is overwhelming and exhausting! Have you ever stayed up all night and literally couldn’t keep your eyes open the next day? Then your mam or siblings are asking you to do things and you just lose it on them? Yep! That’s what someone with anxiety feels like, Every. Single. Day! Just going to bed doesn’t always solve it. So on top of exhaustion, imagine trying to battle your own thoughts, physical sensations, and a sense of impending doom when you are just trying to exist. Everyone reaches a boiling point and unfortunately, you might just be there when the explosion happens, when really it is nothing to do with you.
So what can you do? Let them have their moment, and please try not to get upset or angry yourself. Ask your loved one what made them feel so upset and would they like to talk it through. Just knowing there is someone there for you, even after a meltdown is so beyond comforting for someone with anxiety. P.S. A good bear hug is good too.
5. Encourage them to reach out for help and support them.
Reaching out for help will be one of the hardest things your loved one will do. Do some research on what supports are there for them and talk through their options. If you aren’t too sure, always ask for some help with the research from an adult you trust. Being by their side every step of the way will mean the world to them. They just need to know there will always be someone there for them, through all the ups and downs.
And finally, we’re just going to pop this in for you. It’s just a few more ways to support a loved one with anxiety…
Whether you are here because you have a loved one suffering or you yourself are suffering, we are so proud of you for simply taking this little step. You will get through this rough patch. You are loved and you are amazing.
Remember, the most amazing, compassionate, successful, and inspiring people we know are those who faced challenges, and managed to overcome them.
Hang in there, it will pass x
Here are some of the amazing supports available in Ireland.
SPUN OUT: This is a one-stop-shop for all mental health issues. The articles are very matter of fact, helpful and all bases are covered.
TURN2ME: Support for anyone feeling anxious, sad, or lonely.
SAMARITANS: This helpline is open 24 hours a day and completely confidential. Call 116 123.
CHILDLINE: Helpline and online support, offering advice and support to young people under 18.
AWARE: Providing support and assistance to that section of society whose lives are affected by depression, bipolar disorder, postnatal depression or suicidal thoughts.
YOURMENTALHEALTH: Lots of information about Mental Health in Ireland.
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