How to Help And What To Say To Someone With Anxiety
This blog post will talk about things you can say to a friend, loved one, or coworker who shares with you that they are feeling anxious. We will cover some ideas of what is helpful to say and also what is less helpful to say.
It can feel very hard to know what to say when someone shares with you that they are feeling anxious. You may want to help them or offer advice but not know what would be best. When trying to help someone who has shared to you that they have anxiety or are anxious, it is important to first know that there is no perfect thing to say. Saying just the right thing is not likely going to solve or fix their anxiety in that moment. You can take some pressure off of yourself that there is no perfect thing to say. The biggest thing you can do is show that you care and that you are there for that person. We will go through some ways to do this. First we want to start off on what is not helpful to say.
What is not helpful to say to someone with anxiety
It’s important when talking to someone who has anxiety or is feeling anxious not to dismiss their feelings. It’s also important not to say things relating to just don’t think about. Some examples of statements that are not helpful to say to a friend, coworker, or loved one who is dealing with anxiety are, “ there is nothing wrong here why are you anxious?” Even if it seems to you like what they are feeling anxious about isn’t a big deal or problem, sharing that with the person won’t be beneficial. Saying, “it is not a big deal” is not going to be a helpful response. Telling someone to stop worrying or to stop feeling anxious will not be beneficial as well. It is important to stay away from responses like, “just don’t think about it.” The person with anxiety likely wishes that they were not worried about whatever was on their mind. It is very hard to just stop thinking about something that is stressful to them.
How to help someone in your life that has anxiety
When it becomes clear to you someone is feeling anxious or dealing with anxiety, empathy is important in your response. You want to show the other person that you understand what they are saying and have some understanding of how they are feeling. If you are thinking, I don’t have anxiety, I actually don’t know how they are feeling, think about a time you felt anxious before. All of us will feel anxious about something at some point in our life. Given that we all probably know what anxiety feels like, we are able to be very empathic to someone who is feeling anxious.
Here is some examples of things that you can say that show empathy: “I have felt anxious before too and it feels horrible, how can I help?” “Thank you for sharing this with me, do you want me to come over?”
Every person who has anxiety isn’t the same
Another thing that is important in responding to someone who has shared that they are anxious is showing the person you are there for them and that you want to help. Someone who is anxious may not know what they need, while others may know exactly what they need. It is important to ask about what they are needing. Some people may want space. Some people may want you to come over. You can ask the person, “how can I help?”
Sometimes the person with anxiety may want you to help them problem solve. Other times the person may just want to vent to you. Asking what kind of response they are needing helps you to then communicate in a way that will be most helpful for them. You can say something like, “do you want me to try to help problem solve or listen?” If they say problem solve, you then know that they are looking for a solution of what to do. Many times someone may want us to just listen. If we jump into problem solving when someone wants us to listen, we could end up making them frustrated.
Therapy for anxiety
If you are close with the person who shares about their anxiety, it could be appropriate to talk to them about therapy. Therapy can help someone with anxiety learn ways to manage their anxiety and feel less anxious. If you notice the person who shares they are anxious talks about it being a pattern or has symptoms of anxiety, talking about therapy could be a great way to help. Our blog post supporting others how best to help also provides some helpful tips on what you can say to a friend or loved one struggling with anxiety.
If you have questions about how to support a loved one or friend with anxiety feel free to learn more about anxiety treatment here.You are welcome to schedule a free consultation. Our Atlanta therapists provide therapy for anxiety for clients in Atlanta, GA and 25+ states.