Understanding how anxiety works can help you better support your loved ones without inadvertently increasing anxiety.
This situation is common when someone in your life has anxiety. Your loved one may be so frightened that they avoid taking action, act wisely or increase anxiety. It sounds like friends often postpone important tasks or discussions, friends complain about loneliness but refuse to date, or bosses always focus on what may happen, making everyone miserable. . It is difficult to see anxiety in people you know, and it is even more difficult when their anxiety triggers you.
But what can you do to help anxious people?
First, you must understand that anxiety is a human trait, not a defect. Most of us feel anxious from time to time because it is a universally beneficial feeling that can help us see potential threats, make us worry about being excluded by society, and keep us vigilant so as not to be misled. Although exposure to anxiety may seem a drawback, it actually helps fewer people in the community to be more cautious and think twice about what might be wrong.
However, sometimes people will make themselves anxious by coping with anxiety. They think too much (think about the past or worry about the future), avoid anything that makes them anxious, and use compensatory strategies such as being too idealistic to avoid feeling impulsive at work, which temporarily reduces their anxiety, but in the long run Seeing has increased it. . These coping strategies can also alienate people like you.
It can be frustrating and frustrating to watch these people suffer, but there are steps you can take to help them. These are some of the strategies recommended based on my Anxiety Toolkit.
1. Understand the differences in anxiety manifestations.
Due to evolution, we are programmed to respond to fear by fighting, fleeing or freezing. For different people, one of these responses will usually dominate. For example, my wife tends to freeze her head and bury her in the sand instead of dealing with things that make her nervous and alarmed. I tend to fight more battles and become irritable, overly perfect or dogmatic if I feel stressed.
When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us in a threat-sensitive mode, it is easier to understand a person who feels fear (or pressure) and misbehaving due to fear or stress, and sympathize with them. By paying attention to how anxiety disorders appear in the people you care about, you can understand their patterns and be better able to help.
2. Customize your support according to your preferences and attachment styles.
It’s better to ask a person what type of support they like instead of guessing! However, we know from research that people with an avoiding attachment style (usually those who have experienced rejection of interests or relationships in the past) may respond better to strong evidence of specific practical support. . This can include helping people with anxiety break down tasks into manageable steps, or discussing specific options for dealing with difficult situations, such as how to respond to angry emails, while confirming their independence in doing so.
Others are more likely to like emotional support, especially those who are firmly connected or have “destructive” contact methods because they are worried about being abandoned or worried that their emotions will overwhelm others. People like this respond well to statements claiming to be members of a stress group, for example, when their supporters say: “It’s difficult, but we love each other and we will overcome it together.”
Of course, these are just generalizations, and you need to customize the support by looking at the methods that suit your specific situation. However, when you have a very close relationship with someone, you can provide support based on a deep understanding of your loved one’s anxiety patterns.
3. Find ways to take advantage of any thoughts they have about anxiety
If your loved one understands their anxiety, you can help them determine when an anxiety pattern appears. When my wife notices my anxiety about work through expressing her emotions or being overly critical, I find it helpful. Since we have a good understanding of our own style and established a trusting relationship with each other, we can point out each other’s habits. Not that there will always be a grace period, but that the information will sink anyway.
If you want to do this, it’s best to get their permission first. Remember, people with insight into anxiety disorders still feel compelled to “give in” to their anxiety disorders. For example, a person suffering from health anxiety may logically know that it is unnecessary to go to the doctor for multiple checkups a week, but cannot save themselves. If the loved one lacks understanding of anxiety or has difficulty controlling OCD, it is best to encourage them to see a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety.
4. Help people who desire to lighten their thoughts
If you educate yourself about the cognitive behavioral model of anxiety, it will be a more helpful supporter, and you can do this by reading with your loved one or taking a therapy course. Instead, you can try some techniques that are useful for people with anxiety disorders.
Anxious people usually have a natural bias towards thinking about the worst. To help them understand this, you can use cognitive therapy to get them to consider the following three questions:
Therefore, if loved one is worried that they should have received a letter from their parents a few hours earlier and did not receive it, then you can suggest that they consider the worst, best and most likely explanation for lack of communication.
Be careful not to over-assure your loved ones that their fears will not come true. It helps to emphasize their ability to cope. For example, if they are worried about a panic attack on an airplane, you can say: “It will be very annoying and frightening, but you can solve it.” And, if the loved one is worried that others are angry or disappointed with them, this usually helps remind them that if they do not fully control the reactions of others, they will never be able to choose their own behavior.
5. Provide support, but not take responsibility
Avoidance is a key feature of anxiety, so sometimes we may feel “helped” by doing things for our cunning relatives and unknowingly avoiding eating. For example, if your eager roommate finds that making a phone call is too stressful, but you end up making a call for them, they will never avoid it.
A good general principle to keep in mind is that support means helping someone help themselves rather than doing things for themselves, which actually includes anything you stop doing. For example, if your loved one is on a date, you may propose to join your loved one for the first treatment. Or, if they are not sure how to choose a therapist, they can consider ways to do so, but let them choose.
An exception may be someone’s anxiety accompanied by severe depression. If they cannot get out of bed, they may be so closed that they temporarily need people to do anything that needs to help them survive. Similarly, relatives sometimes fall into anxiety disorders, so that they are in a pure survival mode and need more practical help to complete their work. However, in less serious cases, it is best to provide support without taking responsibility or being overly assured.
6. If a person has more serious anxiety, please avoid shame
What should we do for people with serious problems? People with panic disorder, depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (including the thought of eating disorders) may worry that they might go crazy. You may feel that their help is beyond your ability.
You can still provide support in many ways. When someone is experiencing extreme anxiety, this helps to reassure them that your overall view of them has not changed. Still the same person. They only suffer from a temporary problem, which has become uncontrollable. They have not been broken, and who they are has not changed. By sharing or encouraging their interests and hobbies, you can help that person stay in touch with the positive aspects of their identity to the greatest extent possible.
Sometimes people with chronic anxiety disorder don’t care about this change at all. For example, you may be friends with someone who has a phobia or eating disorder but has a stable and long-lasting condition. In this case, you can accept the person so that he does not feel isolated. It is best to be cautious about their limitations and not to embarrass them unnecessarily or insist on trying to become “normal.”
7. Take care of yourself too
Realize that your goal is to help others, not to heal or reduce their anxiety. Taking too much responsibility is actually a symptom of anxiety, so make sure not to fall into a trap.
Remember, your support does not need to focus directly on anxiety. For example, exercise is very good for anxiety; therefore, maybe you can only offer walks or take yoga classes together. It is also a good idea to set some limits on your support. Compared to a two-hour marathon discussion, it may be more helpful (and less stressful) to have a 20-minute conversation to reduce the stress of going out for a walk.
Helping people with anxiety disorders is not always easy, and you may feel that you are doing something wrong. However, if you remind yourself that you and your loved ones are doing your best, that can help you keep your eyes on. It is important to be compassionate, as the saying goes, put on an oxygen mask first. In this way, you will have a clearer mind to understand the situation of the anxious person and how you can really help.