While anxious feelings are a normal reaction to many of life’s experiences, they can be frightening, for both the individual and their loved ones.
When a person is feeling anxious, their thoughts tend to focus on the negative possibilities. They may be worrying about being judged by others, or they may feel as though their problem is not ‘worth mentioning’.
Being there for a friend is very important in helping them manage these feelings. As hard as it can be to know what to do, simply letting them know you are there is a massive help.
Learn more about the less obvious signs of anxiety.
How can you offer support?
While you may be worried about your friend, we understand that it can be difficult to know how to approach the situation. Before jumping into the conversation, check your mindset. They may be waiting for you to ask, but they may also be feeling vulnerable and defensive. Do your research first and try to remain open-minded. Whatever way they react, remember the reasons why you are there.
Your friend may not vocalise their feelings. They may even try to disguise their symptoms, pretending they are OK when you show concern. Try to talk to them, but instead of focusing on how their behaviour has changed, ask them what is on their mind and offer reassurance. Even if they are not ready to talk, the interest you are showing will let them know that when they are ready, someone is there to listen.
Timing is very important. Try not to start the conversation around lots of people, in front of other friends or family members. Whatever the situation is, choose a time when you are both calm, relaxed and in a nice place. Suggest going for a walk, having a picnic and sitting outside on the grass. When you are both feeling comfortable, you can consider starting the conversation.
Be honest but listen to what they have to say. As a worried friend, it can be upsetting to have to bring up such a conversation. However, it is best not to prolong the experience. Share how you feel, but don’t offer advice straight away. Say your piece then if they are ready to talk they will. Just be there, you never know, they might have wanted to tell you, they just didn’t know how.
Focus on the small things and praise them for the steps they have taken. Remind them that they are doing a good thing by talking about it. Give them hope and show that you are there to support them by asking them what they want to do.
It may be difficult, but supporting a friend with anxiety is an amazing thing to do. Being there for a loved one going through a hard time is often the first step to their recovery, so keep that in mind.