Understand What Anxiety Is
Worry is a worry about something, psychologically or emotionally. It occurs in the brain's higher order regions. It's intricate and intellectual.
Stress speaks to the physiological and hormonal influence on the brain and body of stressors. Stress disrupts homeostasis, and deep in the more primordial parts of your brain and endocrine system, your reaction arises. It is automatic and instinctive.
It's crucial for non-anxious people to understand that the runaway quality of anxiety doesn't just happen in the mind of someone. Physiological stress is triggered by emotional worry, which then fuels more worry. A strong, self-feeding cycle can be anxiety.
Recognize When Someone Is Anxious
It is risky to google a list of symptoms. It's all too tempting to over-diagnose what's going on, resulting in more damage than good.
That said, knowing when someone is having anxiety is crucial because it is the first step in seeking help. There were many signs and symptoms of acute anxiety in the scenario at the beginning: feeling anxious, restless, or tense; getting a sense of imminent danger; high breathing or pulse; trouble concentrating; difficulty breathing.
It's not about pretending to play doctor, but it's about being observant and attentive to how someone feels.
If your issue is more serious, it's OK to pick a moment when they're not stressed out and ask them if their life right now shows the usual anxiety symptoms. If it sounds real to them, they may be experiencing anxiety that involves medical treatment or therapy.
To paraphrase the comedian Maria Bamford, whose work deals with mental illness deeply (and hilariously): fear is not the flu. You can't just ask someone to take and sleep off some Tylenol.
It's also not their fault (remember the element of anxiety that is hard-wired stress?)
It's important not to judge them, even if you find the object of someone's distress to be trivial. They suffer and you want to help them.
Listen & Ask Open-Ended Questions
A big part of supporting those with anxiety is just listening. In my experience, it serves two purposes to speak about what makes me anxious: first, it releases some of the pent-up energy of my worry and concern. Second, asking another person out loud also allows me to see that what I'm concerned about might not be fully based on reality (more on that later).
It's useful as a listener to ask open-ended questions like, "How do you feel about that?" "and "What would have made you feel better? "instead of proposing options.
Don’t Minimize Their Fears
You know what is the world's least soothing phrase? "The Calm Down."
Dismissing, ignoring, or reasoning away the concerns of an anxious individual would possibly cause them to withdraw or get upset. It isn't positive either way.
Give A Gentle Reality Check
As you try to help someone with anxiety, after you've been a good listener, it's OK to give a non-anxious viewpoint.
Take this example: In April, my daughter was scheduled to have a round of shots. In our town, COVID-19 has been surging. I was really worried about my child's idea of going to a doctor's office-I kept imagining all the little virus particles from asymptomatic children settling on the examination tables... waiting.
My wife (a non-anxious individual) called the office of the pediatrician and asked if it was OK to come in. To help stop any patients, they explained their cleaning protocol and scheduled her for first thing in the morning. "My wife explained this to me and said, "I believe the risk of not getting her shots in this situation is greater than the risk of getting COVID.
What I needed was the gentle, well-informed reality check to check my anxiety and move forward.
Seek Expert Help
Odds are, you're not an educated therapist. And you don't really want to be treated by your spouse or uncle or roommate, even though you are.
If your gut tells you, "this is too much to handle for me," you're probably right and it's OK to help your person get professional assistance.