When the people you love suffer from afflictions that you don’t know much about, it can be difficult to help them, even if you do your best. Anxiety attacks are something people commonly deal with for a variety of reasons, and when someone close to you has them frequently, you may not know what to do to help. Read on to find out some basic things you need to know in order to support your close friends and family before, during and after an anxiety attack.
1. Don’t Question Their Reasoning
The thing about anxiety attacks that everyone who has them knows is that they can be equally triggered by things that make sense and things that don’t as much. For example, a friend might begin to have an attack because they put too many chocolate chips in their pancake. You might feel inclined to take them less seriously because of this, but for them it might have trigger anxieties that relate to that activity. Always recognize that their attack is valid even if you don’t understand it.
2. Offer Your Help
Everyone is going to react differently when you offer help during an anxiety attack, so don’t take their answer personally. Some people may need you to talk them out of it, hold them while they go through it or even leave them alone so they can just wait it out. The key is to give them the power to control the situation, so their anxiety can be eased.
3. Focus on Breathing
Practicing a breathing exercise can help at all times surrounding or during an anxiety attack. By doing a breathing exercise to relieve anxiety that’s right for them, your loved one could do this on their own when they feel themselves getting anxious. If they want you to stick around during an attack, try to talk them through the exercise in an effort to help calm and refocus them.
4. Meditation Can Help
The difference between meditating and doing a breathing exercise is that meditation focuses the mind and air intake, while watching your breathing is just a calming method. You can meditate with your loved one as a sign of support so they don’t feel alone in learning to control and channel their anxiety. Meditation has been proven to help control triggers and impulses that relate to anxiety attacks, so even just trying it could give your loved one a moment of peace and calm.
5. Set Boundaries
Some anxiety attacks are caused by people overthinking, so boundaries can help them learn to narrow down what anxieties they deal with every day. Your loved one could worry about their health and repeatedly ask if they should go to a doctor or if what they have is serious. Good boundaries could be limiting their questions to three, then if they have concerns after that, they get one call to their doctor for advice. Boundaries show that worries can be dealt with quickly and don’t always have to spiral.
6. Go to A Professional
Never underestimate the kind of help a mental health professional can provide if no other options have worked. They might recommend something like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a psychotherapy that aims to modify dysfunctional behaviors and thoughts. It’s commonly used to treat anxiety and has given people positive results. Seeing a professional wouldn’t be a sign of weakness. It might be the best way for the person you love to overcome their anxiety and live their best life.
Talking about their anxiety attacks is sometimes the hardest part about life for someone who experiences anxiety. It’s not always easy to explain and they may feel defeated by it, making it a big insecurity. There are lots of ways you can help your loved one who deals with anxiety attacks, but the biggest help you can give is by always providing a safe space for them to come to so they don’t have to worry about any judgement.
And never forget that even if the person you love finds ways to cope with their anxiety and struggles with it less over time, it’s a personal issue that follows people their entire lives. There’s no magic word or trick anyone can do to instantly take it away. There may be relapses or long periods of success, but always promise to be there for them if they should ever need it.