Newsflash: Telling People With Anxiety To ‘Just Relax’ Doesn’t Work

 Nishe
Nishe

Anywhere you go, you’re bound to run into someone who stands ready with terrible advice.

*cough* (browse through my archive for proof!) *cough*

People mean well. Like that one girl on Facebook who SWEARS denim maxi skirts look good. Or when your friend once suggested eating a Beefy Crunchy Burrito from Taco Bell before you went out on a first date.

Yikes. 

I think we’re all full of bullshit.

At least somewhat. Me, you, your best friend, the teacher you idolized. Even the wisest person in the world has advised someone poorly. At least once.

And I don’t even think that’s necessarily a bad thing. People try. They advise to the best of their ability. We’re human, so we’re going to be flawed, and flawed with how we try to problem solve.

But by far, one of the topics people seem to give THE WORST advice on is good ol’ anxiety.

Ah, anxiety! My childhood pal. The thing that’s kept me (unasked for) company longer than anything else I can remember. It’s sweet, really. Anxiety never wants me to feel alone, always wants to remind me they’re around. So generous of you, anxiety!! My longest and most committed relationship. Here’s looking at you, A.

For some reason, everyone thinks they’re an expert on anxiety. Apparently, Tumblr gives out doctorate degrees. Who knew?

Does everyone experience anxious moments? You bet. Does everyone suffer from chronic anxiety? Nope. They’re two different beasts, my friend.

Anxiety feels like having all your senses heightened, but not in any cool Superhero way.

You’re panicked about irrational things. You overthink even the most mundane and simple tasks. Your mind is plagued with worst case scenarios, and it feels like you’re powerless to stop it.

Do I know the best way to combat anxiety? Nope. I learn what works for me, but even that’s always changing. But what I do know? Telling someone to “relax” is not relaxing.

When you tell someone to relax, you aren’t being helpful. You’re just robbing them of validity. You’re telling them, “This thing you have isn’t real. Just stop it.” You’re denying their experience, their struggle.

If people could just relax, don’t you think they’d be doing it?

Like seriously tell me, do you think you’re the first person to suggest it? OH, THANK GOD! WE HAVE UNLOCKED THE SECRET. WE HAVE FOUND THE CURE!!

When you tell someone to relax, you’re stressing them out even more. Because now not only do they have the initial anxiety, now they feel like a failure for not being able to relax. Now they have two things to make them feel shitty.

And that’s just not helping anybody.

I don’t think people mean to make things worse. Like I said, we all do it. We all have our narcissistic moments where we think we’re Gurus and our words are obviously Brilliant and The Answer To Everything.

But when it comes to anxiety, there are far better things you can say to someone than “relax.” Seriously.

So here’s a thought – maybe next time, just don’t? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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