I believe we all have, or will have, the experience of anxiety at some points of our lives. Perhaps you’re experiencing it or (highly likely) you know someone who is. In one year over 2 million people will themselves encounter anxiety. Whether manageable (still very real) or crippling, the effects differ from person to person, but are not in any way the definition of someone’s mental, physical or emotional strength.
So if you have a mate, a friend, someone you hold dear to your heart, who is showing signs of anxiety, please read this. (Also if you are dealing with anxiety and are aware that your friends aren’t sure how to approach you and what you’re dealing with, flick them this article).
1. Look after yourself
First and foremost, definitely the most important. Self-care before you care for others. Depending on the relationship you have with your friend, you cannot offer support unless you yourself are sustained, supported and nourished. (This doesn’t mean you have to have perfect mental health though).
2. Educate yourself
Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways, differing from each individual. Take the time to research about the symptoms, effects and the many misconceptions and stigma often associated with anxiety. Having the knowledge can help you approach your friend and their anxiety, open your mind and dissipate any of your own misjudgments. Furthermore, encourage them to take steps in educating themselves about what they’re dealing with.
3. Talk about it
Ask if they need to talk about it. Let them know you are without judgement or expectation when offering your time to listen to them. Mental health can be intimidating to talk about, especially the state of a friend’s. The reasons why vary, however with the right intention and attitude, having a supportive conversation about anxiety can be really informative, proactive and even give a sense of camaraderie.
– Mutual respect between friends who talk about what is going on for them is essential. Be thoughtful towards boundaries, emotions and space.
– Anxiety can be a fear of the unknown. With respect, be honest about what is up, your perspective on the situation and if your boundaries have been crossed.
– Let your friend know how you feel or what you are dealing with. Instead of focusing just on their anxiety (kindling the flame), it can unite both of you by sharing life’s ups and downs together. No one is alone in how they feel.
– Feeling stable and assured is such a gift to those who experience anxiety. Let your friend know what you really like about them and your friendship. Show their existence in your life isn’t obligatory, tell them what you gain from them being in your life. Confidence is the outcome of receiving (and giving) kindness.
4. Encourage productive/proactive behaviour
There are many things that can aid anxiety and help bring ease to your friend. As someone who has had anxiety, there is nothing more empowering than taking action with your mental health. It could just be your friend needs some support to take the first few steps in the right direction.
Get professional help
– Nowadays there are so many great ways to receive professional guidance for mental health issues. Whether it is an appointment with a counsellor or psychologist, online or over the phone. You can always accompany your friend doing this.
Stress relieving hobbies and activities
– Stress relief can come in all forms, it really just depends what an individual enjoys doing. Meditation, drawing, playing an instrument or singing, reading, cooking. Literally anything goes, whatever seems to keep your friend afloat and managing is great. (As long as it isn’t hurting themselves or others.)
– Eating properly, sleeping properly, exercising properly and drinking enough water I can guarantee will positively impact anyone.
Surround themselves with good friends (Like you!)
– Encourage your friend to surround themselves with people that allow them to feel understood, whole and uplifted.
You don’t have to do all of these to be a supportive friend, you can even just do one. The important thing is to accept your friend for who they are and the anxiety they’re experiencing. Although suffering, believe in their strength to pull through this rough time.
Photo by Felix Russell-Saw