How to Help a Loved One With Anxiety

It’s normal for people to have bad days — you might say you “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” or just that you’re so tired that it’s hard to be positive. It’s also very normal for people to feel moments of anxiety throughout their day.

Stress and anxious feelings are there as warning signs so people can protect themselves in vulnerable situations. However, when feelings of anxiety become common or constant, they can start to negatively impact a person’s life and may even lead to depression.

If you’ve noticed a loved one showing frequent symptoms of anxiety, you might be worried. It can be hard to know how to help, and you might be afraid you’ll make them feel worse by trying. Thankfully, there are several meaningful ways to help someone with anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people are affected by anxiety disorders. This number may even be higher since not everyone with an anxiety disorder recognizes it or seeks help.

There are many types of clinical anxiety, including the following:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Panic disorder

If you’ve never personally struggled with anxiety, you might be unsure how to support someone with an anxiety disorder. It can be hard to know what to say or how to help without some background knowledge. Here are a few common symptoms to help you understand what your loved one may be experiencing:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling nervous constantly

Anxiety manifests itself physically, mentally and emotionally. Every person experiences it differently, with a different combination of symptoms. As a general rule, anxiety makes people feel tired — they’re operating on overload all the time, and eventually, this will significantly impact their lives.

How Do You Help Someone With Anxiety?

When people experience excess anxiety, their perspective on reality shifts, and it’s scary. The most effective thing you can do for a friend or loved one who’s anxious is to stay firmly planted in reality yourself and help bring them back to a more grounded view of their circumstances.

Ultimately, the person with anxiety has to do the work to reshape their perspective. They have to choose to make changes, to ask for help and to do whatever else it takes for them to reduce their stress response. However, you can come alongside them and make the journey easier.

Be Physically Present

Sometimes, all a person with anxiety needs is to not be alone. Spending time with others reminds us that the world is bigger than our emotions and thoughts. People can distract us from internal worries and help us engage with the external world instead.

Making yourself physically available to spend time with your loved one can be very helpful for their anxiety. However, it’s important not to force this — if your loved one wants personal space, you need to respect their opinion. Healing from anxiety takes time, and it can’t be forced.

Encourage Exercise

Physical movement is one of the most effective ways to improve feelings of anxiety. This doesn’t work for everyone, but most people feel significantly better after going on a brisk walk or doing a challenging workout. Over time, exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Encourage your loved one to get moving with you. You could go on walks together, plan a weekly gym date or take a dance class. If your loved one gets anxious in social situations, suggest following YouTube workout videos together at home.

Have a Conversation

Sometimes, people who are experiencing anxiety just need someone to listen to them. When you ask how they’re doing, they have the opportunity to share. Pick a time and place that’s low-pressure — for example, it feels safer to talk in the dark when you don’t have to make eye contact.

Make sure you listen and ask questions. Don’t offer advice or judgments until the person asks for them. The most helpful thing you can do is show you care by listening and trying to understand what your loved one is thinking. This can help them sort out their thoughts so they can move forward.

Encourage Professional Help

Some people just want a good friend who will listen. However, many people who struggle with anxiety can benefit from professional help. You shouldn’t have to act as a person’s therapist, especially if you’re not trained for that.

Many people resist the idea of therapy because it’s scary. It can be expensive, it’s emotionally tiring and it requires people to be vulnerable. However, professional therapists can give your loved one the tools they need to thrive instead of spinning in anxiety.

Care for Yourself

When you worry excessively about a loved one, your own mental health may suffer. It’s easy to worry you’re not doing enough — but it’s important to maintain healthy boundaries. After all, another person’s mental health is outside of your control.

You are responsible for yourself, and they are responsible for themselves. Of course, you want to help the people you love — and you should. But supporting someone with anxiety doesn’t mean taking their anxiety on as your own. You can be much more helpful to them if you remain calm and happy yourself.

How to Ask Someone if They Have Anxiety

Broaching the subject of anxiety can be stressful — you may worry about triggering your loved one’s anxiety, and you may feel anxious yourself. However, many people with anxiety want to speak up but don’t know how.

By offering an avenue for conversation, you’re giving them an option to share if they want to. The last thing you want to do is make your loved one feel that their feelings of anxiety make them a bad person. Here are a few ideas for what to say to help someone with anxiety:

  • “I’ve noticed you seem stressed today. Is everything OK?”
  • “How are you doing? I really want to know.”
  • “Is everything OK? I’ve noticed you seem worried recently.”
  • “I love you so much. If there’s anything going on, you can always talk to me about it.”
  • “Can I give you a hug? I’ve noticed you seem a bit down.”

Tone, facial expressions and body language all play a part in making your loved one feel willing to open up. Your actions matter more than your words — they demonstrate the value you put on this relationship. Actions also build trust over time.

Don’t worry too much about the perfect words for this conversation. Focus on your loved one and their response. If they don’t want to talk, that’s OK. Respect, honesty and compassion are all necessary components of having this conversation.

Contact Diamond House for Help

At Diamond House, we offer professional programs that treat anxiety and other mental health conditions. Our options include both partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient care, so we can help clients with a range of symptoms and diagnoses.

We want to help you and your loved one live a fulfilling life. Our professional support and services can give you the boost you need to make changes and experience life with less anxiety. Let us empower your healing journey through personalized, empathetic treatment that equips you to thrive.

Contact us today to get started!