They don’t want to hear you say, “calm down” or “it’s all in your head” or “others have it worse than you.” That’s not helping, that’s not comforting.
When you’re struggling with anxiety you can’t just “calm down” especially when you have anxiety over nothing, which is absolutely possible. And realistically the only thing you want when you have anxiety is to be calm. You want it all to go away and you want to feel normal, but it’s not that easy because it’s something you can’t control.
Anxiety leaves you feeling helpless, it’s like your suffocating in your own body and you can’t control it. You can tell yourself to breathe and calm down a million times, but it never works. Your brain doesn’t understand how to calm down, the sickness you feel in your stomach and how completely uncomfortable you feel in your own body can’t be controlled.
It’s not in your head, it’s real and it’s happening. Being told everything is going to be okay doesn’t immediately calm your nerves and settle your brain down from moving a million miles an hour. It’s not something words can heal, but they can help if you say the right thing.
What they really need is support and encouragement; they need you to say, “I’m sorry you’re going through this.” Or “This must be really hard for you, let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
They need your support and your empathy. They need to know you’re there for them just as an ear if they need to talk. They don’t need you to tell them everything is going to be okay because things don’t feel okay and realistically they probably won’t be okay until their nerves have calmed drastically.
What your friend going through anxiety really needs is a connection.
They need to feel like you aren’t trying to fix them because they aren’t broken. They’ll just want to be comforted by the fact that you’re there for them.
Approaching them with an open mind and sensitivity is the key because that way they don’t feel like they’re being attacked or diminished. You’ll help make them feel like they have someone there who isn’t trying to diagnose them and tell them it’s only small stuff they’re getting worked up over because the truth is, they know it’s the small stuff; they just can’t control their emotions over it.
That’s the thing about anxiety, no matter how irrelevant your problems seem to other people you can’t just make them disappear.
Don’t make their fears worse, but instead help them through it. Be understanding and don’t make their reasons behind their anxiety seem silly because to them it isn’t. To them it’s causing them to be completely uncomfortable and alienated in their own body. It’s a truly awful feeling.
The best things you can really do is just let them know you’re there, tell them you’re offering your support and let them know that you feel for them, that their worry isn’t irrelevant and that they are welcomed to lean on you in times of need.
That’s all they really want.
They want someone who understands, not someone who tries to fix them and change them.
Be empathetic and acknowledge their situation, that’s what they want to hear because telling them to calm down will get them no where except more anxious.