Managing anxiety can be difficult for the person going through it. Such is true for the people around them. Family members and close friends who are impacted by having a loved one struggle with anxiety can be difficult. This article focuses 3 easy ways a loved one can support their family member without enabling.
Listen. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, no matter how often this has happened, listen. The person struggling with anxiety does not want to have this condition. They do not wake this morning wanting to feel anxiety. Listen with your ears, but really listen with your heart. Offer non-verbal encouragement, nod your head, look at them, and sit with them on their level.
Limit. Being supportive of your loved one struggling with anxiety doesn’t mean that you are constantly available. While it is important to show consistent support and stability by being physically and emotionally present, you don’t have to completely stop and hold your life. Give yourself a magic number. Think of a certain amount of time you are willing and able to dedicate and devote to listening and being with your loved one today. This number can vary from day to day. This morning you may have 15 minutes, but tomorrow you may have 30. Let your loved one know you want to be there for them but set boundaries.
Ask. During a time your loved one is calm, ask what you can do to help the next time they feel anxious. Ask what they need during these times. Ask questions to better understand how anxiety impacts them personally. If your loved one does not know the answer to these questions or are providing answers that seem codependent (ie:”as long as you never leave my side, I’m ok”), that’s a clear indicator they could benefit from getting some extra help.
Having a loved one with anxiety is not easy. It may seem that despite your best attempts, the anxiety does not seem to ease back. But remember, your loved one is different than the anxiety. When you feel angry or frustrated, just remember to target this towards the anxiety not your loved one. The two of you together can fight towards the same cause: managing the anxiety.