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Everyone has struggles. Anxiety is a big one. It is hard to know what to do and what not to do when someone you love suffers from anxiety. Anxiety can demand that you change your plans and maybe even avoid situations. It is hard to predict and can exact a heavy mental, physical and emotional price on the sufferer and those who love them.
Here are some things to remember if you love someone with anxiety.
Anxiety Does Not Define Who They Are
Remember to see past the anxiety. No one wants to be thought of in one dimension. To support someone with anxiety make sure to let them know that you see the real person. Appreciate their strengths, interests and qualities and keep those at the forefront of your mind. Keep it light! Remember they enjoying laughing and chatting about silly stuff just as much as you do.
It Is Physical
Having an anxiety attack can feel like a heart attack. It can seem like the walls are closing in on you and you can’t breathe. Your chest may feel like it s being crushed. Anxiety comes with a physiological response that originates in the brain. The body is surged with cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline because the brain is in “fight or flight” mode. So, the defense mechanism gets stimulated more easily. We are all capable of having an anxiety attack because we all share this primitive part of the brain that detects threat. People with anxiety just have overly-sensitive threat detection.
Don’t Overreact To An Attack
Bombarding someone who is in the midst of an anxiety attack with questions about what is going on or if they are ok isn’t helpful. Nothing will be making sense to them and you will be adding pressure to their terrified state. It is difficult to explain what is going on for them. So, play it cool, like it is no big deal. Reassure them that it will pass. Be calm. Help them to a quiet peaceful place. Remind them to concentrate on slow steady breathing. Crowds are the worst when you are feeling claustrophobic. If they have been suffering from anxiety for a while, they will know what helps them calm down. It will pass and they will tell you what happened. Let them share with you. Anxiety can feel very isolating and lonely.
They Know Their Anxiety Doesn’t Make Sense
Don’t tell them all of the reasons they should not feel the way they do. People with anxiety realize that it is irrational. You will just make them feel ashamed and uncomfortable. Be gentle and compassionate. Try not to be judgmental. They are not doing it on purpose after all! Love and understanding will go a long way. Anxiety is marked by obsessive thinking and telling them to let it go will not help them either. It is like a car that has gone out of control. Their brains can’t release the thoughts. Go easy on them.
Sometimes They May Seem Off In Space
If you find yourself wondering if they are listening to you, they might not be and that is ok. Trying to calm yourself and talk yourself out of a breakdown takes a lot of concentration. So, don’t feel annoyed by their lack of presence. Just go with the flow.
Remember They Are Precious
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