Excuse the rather silly title, but it seems to fit what I want to say. There isn’t much awareness of anxiety, and in general, society often sees it as a weakness. Due to a lack of understanding, prejudices exist.
When people don’t understand things, they tend to shy away from them. For example, those suffering with anxiety might find that some people start avoiding them, because they just don’t know how to act around someone who is feeling anxious. It’s the same as keeping your distance from someone who is grieving, because you have no idea what to say to them.
This is why I felt the urge to write this article, to try and help the general public understand anxiety, even if only a little. More people suffer with anxiety than you might think, they just don’t reveal the fact that they are distressed.
Don’t beat yourself up about being a complete worry pot, and struggling to get through the day sometimes, because you never know, the person next to you may be suffering too, you are not alone.
I have suffered with anxiety, and it hasn’t been an easy journey, but I feel like I have it under control. I know what sets me off and how to behave when I feel a wave on anxiety coming on. I have learn’t a lot from my anxiety, and I want to share my experiences and discoveries with others.
Those closest to anxious people often want to do their best to help, but due to a distinct lack of understanding, end up doing or saying the wrong thing.
Check out my post ‘things you should never say to anxious people’. Saying ‘try and relax’ or ‘try not to worry so much’ to an anxious person will probably make them want to punch you in the face. So, here is my guide to anxiety for those people who struggle to comprehend what it’s all about.
People do not choose to be anxious
Yes people can change the way they think and retrain their brain not to fret so much, but this is no simple process, IT TAKES TIME. You can’t expect people to flick a switch in their head and instantly become less anxious. No sir. It just doesn’t work like that.
No matter how someone acts, don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are choosing to be anxious. They might be able to do more to change their habits, but you saying so probably won’t work, they need to seek help or want to change on their own. Having anxiety is a bitch, and most people who have it would do anything to get rid of it.
This what anxiety feels like
One of the main things people who don’t have anxiety struggle to understand is what it must feel like. Well, let me enlighten you. This is what anxiety feels like for me. I suspect it’s different for each individual person but overall it’s a very similar experience.
When you start to feel anxious you get this burning feeling in your chest, it’s a sort of pressure that builds up. Sometimes because you are worried about something, and sometimes for no darn reason at all.
Even if you try and relax and sit with it, it’s still there prodding away at you. As the feeling escalates you feel like you want to smack your head against a brick wall. For me personally, it feels like someone is clawing away at my heart.
Your breathing starts to go and the more you think about it, the more you struggle to breathe properly, it begins to feel like you’re suffocating. The world starts to close in on you and you can’t do anything except let your panic take hold.
Having a panic attack is bloody terrifying. You have to experience it yourself to get how helpless you feel. So the next time you judge an anxious person, try and picture what this might feel like.
How to help loved ones with anxiety
How can you help your friend or family member with anxiety I hear you ask? Well, firstly, avoid saying some of the things that drive anxious people insane, as mentioned above. Other things you can do to help include:
-Not getting angry or irritated with them when an anxious person is starting to panic. They might say or do things that frustrate you, but hang in there, it’s just the anxiety talking. They will probably apologise when they have calmed down anyway. Of course there are some things you can’t excuse, but at least try and cut them some slack. Someone who is anxious probably won’t be the easiest or most fun person to be around, and they need their true friends and family to stick by them. Don’t give up on them.
-Just be there for them and comfort them when they need it, without judgement or putting any pressure on them.
-If you feel they need help, gently encourage them but do not try and force them. They need to seek help off their own accord for the right reasons. Also saying things like ‘you need help’ probably won’t go down well. They are not crazy, they just need to reexamine the way they see things, and learn some coping techniques.
-Try and encourage them to do things that help to calm them down and help reduce their stress levels. For example, exercise, listening to calming music or trying some anti anxiety apps.
-Do things for them that might help them out. For example, helping with chores, getting started on their to do list or taking some responsibility away from them. Or simply encourage them to get the things done that they are worrying about, so they don’t have to keep stressing about them.
-Don’t expect them to get better after a few counselling sessions or from just listening to an anti-anxiety app a few times. Their anxiety won’t just disappear, and it will probably always be there, they will just get better at managing it, WHICH TAKES TIME.
-It sounds silly but just love them. Show how much you care, and that no matter what happens, you will be there for them. A little bit of love and reassurance can go a long way.