Maybe you have an anxious friend. Maybe she drives you crazy. Maybe you get sick and tired of her living in the land of “what-if”. Maybe you cannot understand her irrational fears and paralyzing worry. Maybe you love her and wish you could help her. Maybe she’s family and you can’t help but interact with her. Maybe she is one of your favorites when her anxiety is not choking her. Maybe you have no idea how to help her but you wish you could……
As a recovering worrier may I offer a few suggestions for those of you who may want to help an anxious friend?
1. Don’t say ” Don’t worry”. If your friend could stop worrying they would. They don’t enjoy the feeling of anxiety or the worry thoughts that explode without permission or warning. A better response might be, ” What are you the most worried about?” Sometimes the very act of talking about their worries is enough to normalize the fear in their mind. This will mean you need to listen and share the fear. It’s a whole lot easier to say ” Don’t worry” and move on than to stop and listen, but I am assuming you care about this person and want to help…..
2. Listen. Stop offering suggestions. Stop formulating game plans for them. Just listen. Sit close. Be there. Sometimes they need to hear. “I’m just going to sit here with you. I’m right here if you need me.”
3. Don’t get sucked in. Engaging with someone anxious can make you anxious. Its kind of like trying to rescue a drowning man. If you are not careful both of you are going down. Respond to her irrational ideas with short calm responses that bring her back to reality. Don’t chase “what-ifs’ with her. Repeat the reality of the situation, not what COULD happen.
4. Pray for her. Need I say more?
5. Count yourself blessed. Most anxious people also have a deep capacity for love. If she is your friend, she probably loves you with a deep love and will be there for you when other people walk away.