Helping loved ones with anxiety
Helping a loved one who is struggling to cope is difficult. I don’t claim to have the answers but having been on both ends on the situation (dealing with anxiety/ depression myself and having people close to me suffer too) I thought I’d shed a little light on what I think did/would’ve helped me cope better.
Note: Professional help for both yourself and your loved one is a very important part of the healing process. Depression can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain which require medication - this is simply a subjective guide that may help you!
1. “Get Over It” - This was the single most detrimental phrase to my mental state of mind.
Saying things like “snap out of it” or “it’s not a big deal” only downplay the issue and make the individual feel as though they are unimportant, and so is their issue. It adds to feelings of worthlessness (a known symptom of depression) and is not constructive.
2. Commit to helping. Healing takes time, be patient and stay strong.
When people are struggling with depression and anxiety they often push their loved ones away, not because they don’t want help, but because they don’t want to bring their loved ones down. They feel as though they are a burden. Do not say “I can’t deal with this right now” or “this is too hard” and walk out - take a deep breath. You don’t even have to talk at this stage, you can simply sit and BE together - human touch is healing. Show them you really are there because you WANT to be.
3. Distraction. Talking is good, and a vital part of working through the issues. But talking ONLY about the problem/s becomes exhausting and can cause your loved one to relive painful emotions and memories.
You can talk about mutual interests, about yourself, about plans, but be GENUINE and positive. It will help them to feel normal again, something that can be most painful is when you are treated as though you have something wrong with you. Physical distraction (ie. activities) may not be possible as depression can make it difficult to leave bed at times, but making plans or goals gives you something to work towards.
4. Empathise. The one thing I wanted when speaking to professionals was for someone to say “I went through that, it was hard and awful but here is what I did and I got through it”.
Open up and share a moment when you struggled and how you handled it - or maybe you know a story of someone who went through something similar. It helps to know you are not alone and you are not broken!
5. Look after yourself too. You cannot fill from an empty cup. Make sure you rest, take time to do little things that make you happy.
During times of crisis it seems impossible to “put yourself first” - but it is not selfish to do so. Even small things like having a bubble bath, reading before bed or taking a walk in the sun - just take a little time each day. Practice what you preach and lead by example. Both happiness and stress have a ripple effect, bringing positivity or good energies into the home or relationship by caring for yourself will not only improve your own mental health and patience, but will also aid the healing process.
I hope this helps. Please share with anyone who is helping someone through a tough time at the moment. Alternately, if you are struggling to cope and wish to help others help you, you could send them this post and sit down to discuss strategies for dealing.
Love and strength always,