The worst thing in the world is watching someone you know suffering with anxiety. They may be trying so hard to ‘keep it normal’ but knowing they have had no sleep the night before because of the anxious mind that cannot switch off. Or maybe their anxiety presents itself in a different way, body shaking, their face white with fear and knowing that whatever you suggest, whatever you do, doesn’t seem to be able to help.
It seems so difficult because the natural thing to want to do it put it right, but we can’t. The main aim is to make it all better but how? This person you know so well is suffering and all you want is to stop that suffering, that panic, that pain and you can’t.
Anxiety can show itself in so many different ways. It may be that sleep is affected, because all of us find things more of an issue at night. Lack of sleep then creates more anxiety about how to cope during the day. Breathing can often be difficult, and they may experience pains in the chest or it may be that the chest is feeling so tight that it feels as though they have a heavy weight on their chest.
Someone who if trying to deal with anxiety may feel sick, lightheaded or dizzy. One of my clients described his anxiety as being “a thumping pain in my chest as my heart raced so fast I thought I might pass out or have a heart attack”
Help is out there, and there are ways to help someone who is suffering with anxiety. The first thing to do is to empathise with them. We all know what it is like to feel anxious about something, for it to go away when you have faced the challenge. But it’s important to remember that someone with severe anxiety feels it more intensely and often cannot pinpoint what they are anxious about. And the feeling often doesn’t go away – bubbling away under the surface ready to strike at any time. So empathy is helpful, helping the person to feel that they are not alone, others do understand.
Try not to pressure them into anything they are not ready for. It’s understandable to want to help someone face their fear, or focus on leading them towards practical solutions, but they may not be ready for this and it could even make them feel more anxious. Remaining calm and supportive is the best way to help them.
It is always a good idea to ask someone what you can do, what they would like that might help them. Help will be different for each person and understanding the best way for them is so important. It’s also useful to have those discussions when they are feeling slightly calmer so that practise and preparation can be done in advance of the next anxiety attack. Talking is so important to help with the understanding on both sides.
There are lots of books or websites that can offer advice and information and learning about anxiety is a great way to understand and therefore be more helpful to someone who is trying to manage their anxiety.
It might be that the only thing that will help is to get some professional help. Of course, it is always important to check out any symptoms with a doctor just to make sure that it is nothing physical in relation to the symptoms. There are lots of people trained to help with anxiety and other mental health issues. So sometimes the kindest thing to do is to discuss a referral to someone who may be able to help. Help them to understand their anxiety and how to start to manage it.
Change is possible today
If you would like to know more, I’m always happy to have a chat.