7 Ways to help someone suffering with Anxiety

Anxiety can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time.

There are countless tips, tricks and techniques to reduce, diffuse and combat the effects of anxiety, but what can you do to help if it’s someone else that feels anxious?

I recently had an email from the mother of a child that suffered with anxiety. While the child was receiving medicationand psychological support through traditional means, the mother had no idea how she and her husband could help the child.

Most of us get anxious from time to time, because it’s a generally useful emotion that helps us to see potential threats and keeps us on alert to being deceived.

However, sometimes people get into patterns of coping with anxiety that cause it to snowball. They overthink (ruminating about the past or worrying about the future), avoid whatever triggers their anxiety, and use compensatory strategies—like being a perfectionist to avoid feeling like an imposter at work—that decrease their anxiety temporarily but increase it over the long-term.

While it’s upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help.

If you are related to, know someone, are a colleague of or a parent to someone that suffers from anxiety…

…Here are 7 ways to help someone that suffers from anxiety.

1. Understand how anxiety manifests

We’re generally hard-wired to respond to fear by fight, flight, or freeze. For different people, one of these responses will typically dominate.

When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us into a mode of threat sensitivity, it’s easier to understand someone who is feeling scared (or stressed) and acting out by being irritable or defensive, and to find compassion for them.

By paying attention to how anxiety manifests in the person you care about, you can learn their patterns and be in a better position to help.

2. Match your support to their preferences

Ask someone what type of support they prefer! People with an avoidant attachment style (typically those who’ve experienced rejecting caregiving or relationships in the past) are likely to respond best to strong displays of concrete practical support.

That could include helping the anxious person break tasks down into manageable steps, or talking through specific options for how to deal with a difficult situation.

Other people are more likely to prefer emotional support, especially those who are securely attached, or who have a “preoccupied” attachment style due to a fear of being abandoned or of their emotions being overwhelming to others. Folks like this respond well to statements emphasizing that they’re part of a tight team—for example, their supporter saying, “This is tough but we love each other and we’ll get through it together.”

These are generalizations, so tailor your support by observing what works in your particular situation.

3. Find ways to make use of any insight they have into their anxiety

If your loved one has insight into their anxiety, you can help them spot when their anxiety-driven patterns are occurring. It’s a good idea to have their permission first.

Keep in mind that people who have insight into their anxiety often still feel compelled to “give in” to their anxious thoughts. For instance, a person with health anxiety might logically know that going to the doctor every week for multiple tests is unnecessary, but they can’t help themselves.

4. Help someone who is anxious to temper their thinking

Typically, anxious people have a natural bias towards thinking about worst-case scenarios. To help them get some perspective on this, you can use a cognitive therapy technique where you ask them to consider three questions:

  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • What’s most realistic or likely?

Take care not to overly reassure you that their fears won’t come to pass. It’s more useful to emphasize their coping ability. For example, if they’re worried about having a panic attack, you could say, “That would be extremely unpleasant and perhaps quite scary, but it will pass, you’ll deal with it.”

5. Offer support, but don’t take over

Avoidance is a core feature of anxiety, so sometimes we may feel pulled to “help out” by doing things for our avoidant loved ones and inadvertently feed their avoidance. For instance, if a sufferer finds making phone calls incredibly stressful and you end up doing this for them, they never push through their avoidance.

A good general principle to keep in mind is that support means helping someone to help themselves, not doing things for them, which includes virtually anything that stops short of actually doing it yourself.

6. If someone has a more serious anxiety problem, avoid stigmatizing them

People experiencing things like panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessive thinking (including thoughts related to eating disorders) may fear that they’re literally going crazy. Helping them may feel beyond your ability.

You can still be supportive in many ways. When someone is experiencing significant anxiety, it’s helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasn’t changed. They’re still the same person; they’re just suffering a temporary problem situation that has become out of control.

7. Take care of yourself, too

Recognize that your goal is to help, not to cure the person or relieve them from their anxiety. Taking too much responsibility is actually a symptom of anxiety, so make sure you’re not falling into that trap yourself.

Keep in mind that your support doesn’t need to be directly focused on anxiety. For example, exercise is extremely helpful for anxiety; so perhaps you could simply offer to go for a walk together.

It’s also fine to put some limits on your support. A 20-minute de-stressing conversation while taking a walk is far more likely to be useful (and less exhausting) than a two-hour marathon discussion.

Helping someone with anxiety isn’t easy and you may feel like you’re getting it wrong. But, if you remind yourself that you are doing your best, it can help you keep things in perspective.

Let me know which tip is most successful for you.

If you know a sufferer that needs help – a Free Consultation chat with me is always available to them.

Mynd.Works - Anxiety Treatment Canberra

5 Ways to Stop Anxiety and Panic

What happens if you’re feeling anxious, about to panic but don’t have half an hour to calm down with meditation…

Here are some quick-fire ways to drop the ANXIETY and refocus your mind.

DISTRACTION

You’re in a queue in cafe, your coffee’s almost ready and suddenly, you’re overcome with anxiety. Did you remember to ask for a sugar in that drink? Do you ask for that sugar now… or when they give you the drink? Will you hold up the customer behind you? What if you need to visit the toilet, but your drink isn’t ready? What if your card doesn’t work at the checkout? What if that urgent call you’re expecting happens as you’re paying?

What if…? What if…? What if…?

Quickly stop your mind from derailing and find some things you can focus on. The idea behind this technique is to use all of your senses.

  • Look around – find objects, people, furniture, signposts… whatever you can see and focus on them. Notice shapes, colours and textures.
  • Listen – What sounds can you hear? Try to hear individual sounds and notice where they’re coming from.
  • Touch – What textures can you feel? Run your hands over your clothing, whatever you’re carrying or perhaps the closest piece of furniture or object. How does it feel? Hot, cold, smooth, textured?
  • Taste and Smell – What scents fill the air, can you separate individual smells or tastes.

Refocussing your senses helps drag you back into reality when your anxious thoughts have taken over everything.

A POSITIVE MEMORY

When I’m feeling low or something/someone has annoyed me, I find that I can usually turn things around by directing my mind away from the immediate situation and towards a thought or a memory of something that made me smile or feel good.

It takes a bit of practice beforehand, but if you’re forearmed with some examples… that time you heard that baby laughing and started chuckling yourself. That funny show you watched on Netflix, you know the one; The comedian on YouTube that had you in stitches or those funny cat and dog movies.

Sometimes, to get out of feeling down or anxious, think of something that made you smile or laugh and focus on it until you feel your anxiety drop.

SO WHAT?

Ask yourself in your head if there’s any REAL evidence to support your anxiety and if there is, what’s the worst that can actually happen? Will holding up the customer behind you be the worst thing in the world? If your card is declined, use cash or explain that you’ll go to the nearest cash machine. Try to rationalise the situation. Is worrying about what might happen going to actually help or stop it from happening? Can you change anything? If so, do it… if not, move on!

NUMBERS

This one’s a great one. When you catch yourself feeling anxious quickly attempt to recall your phone number… backwards!

That’s right, forwards isn’t usually a problem, but backwards gets you thinking. If you want to have fun, try repeating the alphabet backwards, or your address. Anyway to get your brain into analytical mode will steer it quickly away from anxiety.

 

NIP TO THE LOO

If there’s one near and the situation allows for it, nip off for a quick toilet break. Even if you don’t ‘need’ it, a toilet break will give you a quick time-out to take a breather.

You can even do the other techniques at the same time. It can help just to get a bit of quiet clarity before returning a little less overwhelmed.

What other quick ways help reduce anxiety when you have no time?

Take advantage of my FREE stress-reducing MP3 download by clicking here.

Or join over 30,000 others and listen to my FREE short meditation exercises on INSIGHT TIMER.

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Mynd.Works - Anxiety Treatment Canberra

Visualisation trumps Anxiety!

Exposure Therapy, aaaargh…

The most dreaded part of any phobic’s treatment and the technique I most often hear being used by traditional psychology. It’s the time when you have to actually face whatever has been scaring you, which initially causes even more anxiety, and panic attacks.

But, wait… just for a moment. Are you doing everything you can to make exposure therapy quick, easy and relatively painless?

Could visualization help?

My answer, and the answer from thousands of my own clients worldwide is a resounding “YES”.

Some people aren’t afraid of anything and go through life little-to-no anxiety. They shrug off bad news and appear to thrive in stressful situations. As the saying goes, they are ‘as tough as old boots’.

Over the last few decades experts have devoted many hours to understanding why some people are more optimistic, fearless, and hardy than others.

There are a few obvious reasons like upbringing, possibly some genetics, diet, and brain structure which play a role, but none of those things condemn you to a life of uncontrollable anxiety, fear and hopelessness. So what do the successful people do differently?

They imagine things differently – they visualise.

For years people have done visualization exercises for the purpose of relaxation, the standard one being to visualize yourself on a beach feeling the warmth on your skin. As relaxation techniques they are very effective for most people, resulting in a lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate, and helping relieve muscle tension. Most people report feeling calmer.

This is great for general anxiety, stress and worry but only of limited help when it comes to tackling specific anxiety or phobias. Relaxation is good and obviously it’s better to tackle a specific issue with a relaxed body than with a tense one, but state of mind is very important and the trigger of the phobic situation, be it entering an airport, seeing the elevator doors close, nearing the front of a queue or hearing the subway train approaching, can bring all of that relaxation crashing down.

So what can be done to make a different kind of visualization work for you?

Let’s examine one of my favourite options.

When it comes to tackling a specific issue, sun-kissed beaches are probably irrelevant on their own. Instead of leading your mind into relaxing in an imaginary situation why not combine that relaxation with imagining the real issue.

After getting yourself into the most relaxed, calm and comfortable physical state possible, you can then lock-in that great relaxed feeling by using an anchor technique – nipping a finger and thumb together or taking 3 deep breaths.

Then, while physically relaxed, actually shift your thoughts into having yourself doing whatever it is you have a phobia of, or whatever situation makes you feel anxious… but this time you’re having yourself do it in a calm, physically relaxed and perhaps even a happy fashion as if it were a “normal” occurence.

Let’s say your anxiety is triggered by travelling in an elevator, why not visualize yourself leaving your house, arriving at a tall building, calmly walking over to the elevator, pressing the button to summon it.

Waiting for the doors to open, stepping in and watching the doors close, all the time activating your good feelings by taking those deep breaths or nipping that finger and thumb together. Then imagine stepping out at your destination floor.

The following steps can make the visualization work more powerfully.

1, Visualising in the “first person”, seeing the situation from your own eyes, don’t see yourself doing it as if you were an actor on a movie screen. Your mind will see it as someone else, not as you.

2, Use all of your senses. Think about everything that you might see, hear, feel and smell and recreate them in your mind. Think also of things that are not important to the situation but which you might hear anyway, people talking in the background, mobile phones ringing etc. Also do this with sights, smells and textures.

3, If you find visualization hard persevere, it takes time and patience to undo what your mind has constructed, but rest assured, results will come.

4, If you find it impossible to visualize being calm and happy in the phobic situation then break down the visualization into parts. Spend some days becoming calm looking at the elevator from the outside, take as long as you need. Build up to riding in the elevator as slowly as you want. Eventually you will get to be calm and happy in the situation you used to fear.

5, When it feels right, and you’ve practiced visualising for a week or so, go for it in real life!

In fact, here’s what I’m going to do…

Seeing as though it’s NEW YEAR…

I’ll guide you through the actual ‘anxiety reduction technique’ for free if you visit here.

And if you like it, there’s an option to purchase it to listen while offline for some minimal amount (I think it’s about $6).

What are you waiting for?

Let me know how it goes.