I get asked this question alot. Seeing someone you love having or living with anxiety is tough. It can feel scary, overwhelming and frustrating, because you want to help and you don’t know how. At the same time it is hard to be a partner, a friend and when needed a carer.
No as always I would like to point out that I am not someone who is trained in anxiety care. But I am someone who supports loved ones who have anxiety, who also happens to have a background as a coach.
So today in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month I want to share with you my top 5 tips how I have learnt to support my loved ones with anxiety.
This is to be honest my go to piece of advice for someone with anxiety or helping another person with anxiety. I always say if you can understand something you can do something about it. There are many layers to anxiety and different types. The more you can educate yourself about anxiety and ways to help your loved one the less helpless you will feel. However, be warned, sometimes your loved one won’t want to try out all the techniques you have found. So get educated about your loved one’s needs. Ask them how they want you to help them. Not during anxiety but at a good time. Get to know what triggers their anxiety and the ways they like to get calm.
Make agreements with your partner about how you can support them in pre-anxiety, anxiety and post anxiety. Easy ways for them to communicate their needs when they have anxiety or feeling anxious. Write it out so you can both remember it. Your loved one will probably not remember it at all when they have anxiety as when we have anxiety we loose contact with our thinking brain due to the amygdala hijack.
Get your expectations in order
Your loved one may be the most rational thinking person in the world but when they have anxiety all of that goes out of the window. You can’t always just tell a person with anxiety they need to breath to calm down, they need you to do it with them. You may need to help them with a rational thinking process to calm down their thoughts. WHATEVER you do don’t just say calm down. It’s the most redundant phrase as it NEVER works. Use phrases such as you are safe, you will get through this, it’s okay not to be okay. And remember anxiety is just about the intense attack. Post anxiety is like an anxiety hangover. Your loved one will probably feel exhausted, emotionally drained and embarassed. They can’t just snap back to normal after an attack. They are going to need some gentle help, limited decisions and TLC. And FYI yes you are probably going to have to make dinner. Again. They maybe able to do part of helping, something simple like peeling carrots or laying the table. But assembling a meal, it’s just not happening. Give them a simple and defineable task once they have recovered but keep it simple. Lastly don’t expect somebody who has pre anxiety, anxiety or post anxiety to be able to communicate, decide or remember as easily as they normally do. Think of it as they are on low battery. Keep options to a minimal. Keep communication simple. Tasks structured simple. And if they really, really need to remember something ask them to write it down.
if they ask for help -help & listen
Asking for help when you have anxiety is SUPER hard. If your loved one asks for help that is a sign they are not okay. Take it seriously. Drop everything (as much as is humanely possible) and help. Be curious to their needs. This is where being a partner or friend goes out the window, you step into carer mode. Step by Step work through the plan you made to help them. You don’t have to do everything for them. Just support them to get through this. Step-by Step
Remember to take care of you
It might sound cheesy, but you need to take care of you. If you live with someone who has chronic anxiety you may be in a carer role or be the person that is making life function. And that can take it’s toll on you. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Build up an understanding support team for your loved one and yourself. You will need a friend you can talk to. You will need breaks. You might need people to come and keep an eye on the kids. And if your loved one has chronic anxiety you will need a mental health team to take the pressure off you. Even if your loved one doesn’t have chronic anxiety you still need a support network to help you. You don’t have to be a super hero and do it all and keep on coping with everything. Humans are designed to help each other and work in a community. If you have been on constant support role for a few weeks you need a break. Find a way to give yourself a rest and spare yourself when you can. (Thank Gods the takeaways are open again!)
There are lots and lots of Tools that are out there that can help with controlling anxiety. And much of the self care advice for people with anxiety works for the people trying to help them. The most important piece of advice I have is not to forget yourself and your needs in supporting a loved one with anxiety.
Anxiety is a bitch to be honest. And it takes energy from people who have it and the people that love them.
If you feel like it is getting overwhelming for you and for them then seek proffesional support.
And remember you are an amazing, wonderful individual with a heart and soul of gold for helping the person you love.
You blow my mind with how great you are.
And YOU GOT THIS <3