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How to Help Someone with Anxiety: 5 Compassionate Techniques

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Are you struggling with how to help someone with anxiety? It’s a common situation many face. Anxiety is not a rare occurrence or a person-specific defect. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the US, affecting up to 18% of the population. Seeing a loved one, friend, or colleague trapped in swirling feelings of unease can make you feel powerless, longing to step in and lighten their load. But how do you help when the concern seems irrational to you, and you can’t truly understand their fears?

At Momentum Psychology, we believe it’s crucial for everyone to recognize that anxiety is a common human feature, not a flaw, and we’re here to dispel its mysteries. We acknowledge that knowing how to help someone with anxiety can be challenging due to its highly personalized nature. Despite being somewhat invisible and misinterpreted often, anxiety can hugely impact the lives of sufferers and those around them.

Understanding Anxiety: A Common Human Feature, Not a Flaw

Anxiety symptoms vary widely from person to person but general signs can be categorized into three main areas: Physical symptoms (like severe restlessness, nausea, and fatigue), anxious thoughts and behaviors (like persistent worry, overgeneralizing, and avoidance of feared situations).

The Role of Friends and Family in Supporting Someone with Anxiety

While the caregiver’s role is never to replace professional help, offering understanding and compassionate support can go a long way. This support often involves acknowledging their fears, learning more about their anxiety symptoms, and encouraging them to seek professional help if necessary. Your objective here is to create a safe, non-judgmental space for them to open up about their anxieties.

Infographic: Crucial Dos and Don’ts when Supporting Someone with Anxiety

Crucial Dos and Don'ts when supporting someone with anxiety - how to help someone with anxiety infographic pillar-5-steps

In upcoming sections, we will guide you on recognizing the signs of anxiety, communicating effectively with someone suffering from it, avoiding common pitfalls, and encouraging them towards healthy coping mechanisms. We will also cover how you as a caregiver can prioritize your well-being during this journey. Let’s walk this path together to better comprehend and compass the seas of anxiety.

Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety

Recognizing the signs of anxiety is the first crucial step in understanding how to help someone with anxiety. Anxiety, the most common mental health condition in the United States, affects up to 18% of the population. Though the symptoms can vary from person to person, they can generally be grouped into three categories: physical symptoms, anxious thoughts, and anxious behaviors.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

When someone is dealing with anxiety, they may experience a range of physical symptoms. These can include lightheadedness, sweating, nausea, restlessness, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and fatigue. These physical symptoms are the body’s natural response to stress and fear, and they can be quite overwhelming.



Serious and anxious business woman talking on the phone, working in a modern office

Anxious Thoughts and Behaviors

In addition to physical symptoms, individuals with anxiety often exhibit certain thought patterns and behaviors. They may consistently believe the worst will happen, have persistent worry, engage in all-or-nothing thinking, or overgeneralize based on a single event. On the behavioral side, they may avoid feared situations or events, seek reassurance, second-guess themselves, show irritability or frustration in feared situations, or engage in compulsive actions.

Understanding How Anxiety Manifests Differently in Different People

Just as every individual is unique, so too is their experience with anxiety. It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will exhibit the same signs or symptoms of anxiety. Some people might experience more physical symptoms, while others might struggle more with anxious thoughts or behaviors. Additionally, the intensity, frequency, and duration of these symptoms can vary greatly.

Understanding these variations is key to providing effective support. Being sensitive to the person’s experiences, even if they don’t make sense to us, can help us better understand their struggles and assist them in managing their anxiety.

At Momentum Psychology, we believe that understanding is the first step towards compassion. And compassion, in turn, is the first step towards helping someone with anxiety. In the following sections, we’ll delve into how we can use this understanding to communicate effectively with someone suffering from anxiety, avoid common pitfalls, and encourage them towards healthy coping mechanisms.

Taking Care of Yourself While Supporting Someone with Anxiety

Helping someone with anxiety can be a challenging and emotionally draining task. While your goal is to provide support, it’s equally vital to take care of your own mental health too. Without adequate self-care, you risk getting overwhelmed and unable to provide the necessary help. Here are some compassionate strategies to ensure you maintain your own well-being while supporting a person with anxiety.

Setting Boundaries in Your Support

Being clear about the boundaries of your support is essential. Your role is to help, not to cure the person or relieve them from their anxiety. As Dr. Jan Newman from Momentum Psychology points out, we often fall into the trap of taking too much responsibility, a symptom of anxiety itself. To prevent this, establish psychological, emotional, and physical boundaries. Define what you can do and can’t do, and be firm with these limits.

This might mean offering to accompany the person to therapy sessions, but not setting up appointments for them. Or, it might involve having a 20-minute de-stressing conversation instead of a two-hour marathon discussion. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re not supportive. It ensures that your support remains sustainable and beneficial to both parties.

It’s also important to remember that it’s perfectly fine if your support doesn’t directly focus on anxiety. Engaging in activities like walking or yoga together can be incredibly beneficial for managing anxiety and also provide a relaxing break for you.

Prioritizing Your Own Well-being and Seeking Support for Yourself

While you’re supporting someone with anxiety, don’t forget to take care of your own mental health. As Mind suggests, it’s crucial to ensure you have the energy, time, and space you need to be able to help.

Consider sharing your caring role with others, if possible. It’s often easier to support someone if you’re not doing it alone. Also, talking about your own feelings with someone you trust can help you feel supported too. If you’re finding it difficult, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. At Momentum Psychology, we’re here to help not only those with anxiety but also those supporting them.

Remember the saying, “put on your own oxygen mask first.” This means prioritizing your own needs to be in a better position to help others. Whether it’s ensuring you have enough sleep, exercise, and social connection, or seeking professional support from online therapy services like Momentum Psychology, taking care of yourself is an essential part of the journey in supporting someone with anxiety.

In conclusion, learning how to help someone with anxiety is a delicate balancing act. It requires compassion, understanding, and importantly, self-care. You’re not alone in this journey. Reach out to professionals and peer support when you need it. At Momentum Psychology, we’re here to provide support through secure online video conferencing, making it easy for high-achieving professionals to seek help while managing their demanding lives.

Effective Communication Techniques for Supporting Someone with Anxiety

Supporting someone with an anxiety disorder requires understanding, patience, and effective communication. Here, we will discuss some of the most impactful methods for communicating with someone who’s dealing with anxiety, and how to effectively validate their feelings, maintain open lines of communication, and use comforting words and phrases.

Validating Their Feelings: Letting Them Know It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

One of the most vital steps in helping someone with anxiety is validating their feelings. As stated by Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, a primary care psychologist, “Don’t ignore their feelings no matter how much you don’t get it.”^ Anxiety disorders often come with frequent worries about the past or future, and these thought patterns can be challenging to change.

Let your loved one know that it’s entirely okay to feel the way they feel. Your role is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for them to express their emotions. This understanding can help them feel seen and validated, which is an essential part of their journey towards managing their anxiety.

Keeping Lines of Communication Open: Regular Check-ins and Opportunities for Discussion

Regular check-ins are another effective way to support someone with anxiety. Let them know you’re there for them and are willing to listen when they need to talk.

At the same time, it’s important to understand that there might be moments when they prefer to be alone. As such, offer your support without pressuring them. For instance, you can say something like, “I’m here if you’d like to talk about what’s on your mind,” or “I see you’re feeling anxious. What can I do to help right now?”^ This kind of open and understanding communication can help them feel less isolated and more supported.

What to Say to Comfort Someone with Anxiety: Reassuring Phrases and Words

The words we use when communicating with someone with anxiety can have a significant impact. It’s crucial to use comforting and reassuring words and phrases that validate their feelings without dismissing their struggles.

For example, you could say things like, “It’s perfectly okay to not be okay,” “Be gentle with yourself,” and “It’s fine to take breaks.” These phrases can put your loved one at ease and reassure them that their pain and struggles are valid.

The goal isn’t to fix their anxiety but to provide them with the support and understanding they need to cope with it. At Momentum Psychology, we understand how vital this support can be, and we’re here to provide guidance and professional help when needed.

In the next section, we’ll discuss some common mistakes to avoid when supporting someone with anxiety, and how to encourage healthy coping mechanisms.


The Importance of Patience, Understanding, and Compassion in Supporting Someone with Anxiety

In conclusion, understanding how to help someone with anxiety involves a combination of patience, understanding, and compassion. It’s crucial to remember that anxiety is a personal experience that affects each individual differently. As such, what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. This makes understanding and empathy all the more important.

When communicating with someone experiencing anxiety, always validate their feelings. Their experience is real and requires sensitivity. Avoid minimizing their feelings or dismissing their worries as overreactions. Instead, keeping lines of communication open, expressing concern, and offering reassurances can go a long way in providing effective support.

The Role of Momentum Psychology in Providing Online Therapy Services for Anxiety

At Momentum Psychology, we understand the challenges of balancing a demanding career with personal issues like anxiety. We’re committed to providing accessible and professional therapy services to individuals in North Carolina and all PSYPACT states.

Our team of therapists are skilled in the treatment of anxiety and its related issues. We offer a range of services including stress and burnout therapy, trauma and loss therapy, and ADHD therapy, among others.

In addition to individual therapy, we also offer the Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) program, an evidence-based therapy for children and teens with anxiety and OCD, which involves parents in the therapeutic process.

We understand that seeking help can be daunting, and so we make it as easy and comfortable as possible. Therapy sessions can be attended via secure online video conferencing, making it convenient for you to seek help while managing your demanding life.

It’s okay to reach out for help. If you or your loved one’s anxiety is significantly impacting daily life, schedule an intake appointment with our available anxiety therapists. Let’s begin the journey to regaining control of your life together.

Avoiding Common Mistakes When Supporting Someone with Anxiety

Supporting a loved one dealing with anxiety is a delicate balancing act. While you might be eager to help them, there are certain pitfalls that you should avoid. Here are three common mistakes to avoid when figuring out how to help someone with anxiety.

Avoid Telling Them to Calm Down: Why This Can Invalidate Their Emotions

One of the most common mistakes is telling someone with anxiety to “calm down” or “relax.” While it may seem like a logical response, it’s often perceived as dismissive. It can make your loved one feel like their feelings aren’t valid or understood. Instead of asking them to suppress their feelings, acknowledge their distress and remind them that it’s okay to feel anxious. Offer reassurance by validating their emotions, not by undermining them.

Avoid Enabling Their Anxieties: The Importance of Encouraging Gradual Exposure with Professional Support

Another pitfall is enabling their anxieties by modifying your behaviour or taking on tasks to help them avoid what they fear. Avoidance can perpetuate their worries and prevent them from learning to deal with their anxieties. It might seem helpful in the short term, but in the long run, it can have a negative impact.

At Momentum Psychology, we believe in encouraging gradual exposure to what they fear, under the guidance of a professional. This professional therapeutic support can help them understand that they can manage in the scenarios they are avoiding.

Avoid Putting Pressure on Them: Respecting Their Boundaries and Comfort Levels

While it’s important not to enable their anxieties, it’s equally important not to force them into situations they’re extremely anxious about. Putting pressure on them could damage your relationship and cause them significant stress.

Instead, respect their boundaries and comfort levels. Recovery is a process and it’s important to be patient. The issues leading to their anxiety are likely complex and will take time to heal.

Supporting someone with anxiety requires understanding, patience, and compassion. It’s about fostering a safe and supportive environment where they feel validated and understood, but also encouraged to confront their anxieties with the right professional support. At Momentum Psychology, we’re here to provide that support and guide you and your loved ones through the journey to recovery.

Encouraging Healthy Coping Mechanisms and Seeking Professional Help

Helping someone with anxiety is not just about listening and being there for them. It’s also about encouraging them to engage in healthy coping mechanisms and guiding them towards professional help when needed.

The 3 3 3 Rule for Anxiety: A Simple Coping Technique

The 3 3 3 rule is a simple yet effective technique that can be used when anxiety seems overwhelming. It involves identifying 3 objects, 3 sounds, and moving 3 body parts. This technique helps the person to redirect their focus from their anxious thoughts to their immediate environment, grounding them in the present moment. Encourage your loved one to practice this technique when they feel their anxiety escalating.

Encouraging Mindfulness, Meditation, Exercise, and Self-Care

Activities such as mindfulness, meditation, and regular exercise can significantly help manage anxiety symptoms. These activities help to calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. At Momentum Psychology, we often recommend these practices as part of our treatment strategies.

Encourage your loved one to partake in these activities. They could even pick up a hobby or activity that requires focus and presence, as this can engage their senses and take their mind off their worries.

Discouraging the Use of Alcohol or Drugs as a Coping Mechanism

People with anxiety disorders are sometimes tempted to use alcohol or drugs as a way of coping. However, this can lead to more serious problems down the line, including the development of a substance abuse disorder. It’s important to discourage the use of such substances and instead, direct them towards healthier coping mechanisms.

When to Seek Professional Help: Recognizing When Anxiety Significantly Impacts Daily Life

If your loved one’s anxiety is significantly impacting their everyday life, it’s time to seek professional help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-researched and effective treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT helps people identify and change negative thinking and behavioral patterns that contribute to their anxiety.

At Momentum Psychology, we offer CBT and other evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders. Our services are conveniently available through secure online video conferencing, making it easier for busy professionals to access the help they need.

In conclusion, knowing how to help someone with anxiety involves providing emotional support, encouraging healthy coping mechanisms, and guiding them towards professional help when necessary. Everyone’s journey with anxiety is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Patience, understanding, and compassion are key.


The information provided on this website and in this blog is for educational purposes only. The contents of this website and newsletter are provided solely for informational purposes and are not meant to provide professional medical or psychiatric advice, counseling, or services.

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