Things Not To Say To Someone Struggling With Anxiety

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Often we see our loved ones struggling with anxiety including fear, restlessness, nervousness or worrying constantly. This can become a serious concern once it starts affecting their sleep, ability to work or their relationships with others.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), around 264 million people have been reported to suffer from some level of anxiety worldwide. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered 25% increase in such disorders.  

In such difficult times, they need someone they can talk to without being judged or preached at. Few kind words and a sense of understanding  from their loved ones can go a long way in helping them deal with their anxiety.

You can help them by recognizing the signs to understand what is going on. Do you see them constantly worrying on every other situation? Have they started to get sleep problems? Have they been eating too less or too much lately? Have they started to get constant headaches or stomach aches? If your answer is yes to most of the above, it is time that you suggest to seek professional help for them.

“We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us.” – Rumi

For people struggling with anxiety, it matters how their loved ones perceive their situation since they cannot share with anyone else. Words matter! We asked some anxiety experts on few things that you should avoid saying to your loved one during their difficult time with anxiety.

Don’t say: Relax/ Chill/ Calm down

Anxiety almost never works like a switch button. If people struggling with anxiety could relax instantly , they would love to do that. Unfortunately, that does not happen so easily. Instead, gentle words of support could help your loved ones realize that you are with them in this together.

Struggling With Anxiety

Better to say: ‘ I am here for you, what can I do to help?’

Don’t say: Think about positive things

People struggling with anxiety cannot suddenly start thinking positively. In fact, in most cases, they do not  have control over their reactions to worries.  Your positive actions towards your loved ones will make them feel understood.

Struggling with Anxiety

Better to say: ‘Would you like to talk more about it? I am all ears.’

Don’t say: Get over it/ Grow up!

Asking someone to get over it is like negating the entire feeling. Anxiety is a situation where thoughts and fears become completely irrational to a person. These reactions might appear to be immature or pampered to the other person but it is a very big deal for your loved ones. At such times, all they need is support and someone to understand that their anxiety is very much serious and real.

Struggling with anxiety

Better to say: ‘Whatever worse happens, we will manage together.’

Don’t Say: Why do you worry so much?

There is a high chance that people struggling with anxiety knows that it is all going inside their head. However, reiterating the same will only trigger further anxiety for them. Instead, you can try to help by grounding them into reality.

Better to say: Lets do an activity together! Wear your favorite T-shirt, smell a perfume, drink a cup of tea. (The Five senses Grounding exercise helps activates the five sense organs to bring back the person into reality.)

Don’t say: I know, I feel stressed too

Stress is very different from having an anxiety disorder. Comparisons will give impression of minimizing their emotions. Instead, you can support by asking more questions on how they feel at the moment. Even if you do feel anxious at times, it cannot be compared  to anyone else since every person experiences a different level of anxiety.

Better to say: ‘I can tell you are really having a hard time.’

It is important to consider that if your loved ones are confiding their problems in you, they trust you to show weakness. Sometimes, it might become very frustrating to see your loved ones deal with worries that cannot be magically taken out of their head. Moreover, anxiety is a very individual experience. What works for one person might not work for the others. But as a common solution, talking to someone about it helps release worries in most cases. Being heard and validated at such times really helps a person to cope with such situations.

Try doing something that they love – creating art together, playing a game,  watching a movie, eating something they love or just a coffee together. It would take their mind off their worries and they would absolutely love it. You can also remind and acknowledge them about past moments when they were able to successfully deal with an anxious situation. This will motivate them to get through the present yet again.


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