When You Want To Help: Eight Strategies For Loving Someone With An Anxiety Disorder

February 2, 2017

When You Want To Help: Eight Strategies For Loving Someone With An Anxiety Disorder

In my head, I was screaming out, “Please, not again, I just can’t listen to you talk about what might happen!” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help; after all, this is my daughter whom I love dearly and would do anything in the world for her. But my support seemed to make things worse. I didn’t know how to help. Have you ever uttered those words or entertained these thoughts while trying to help someone with an anxiety disorder?

In the past when it was evident my daughter was struggling with her anxiety I would rush in immediately to offer comfort. She would start down a road of, what if’s…. “What if I have some terrible disease?” “What if I am dying?” “What if I flunk out of school?” and on and on. These conversations were nothing new; we had the same conversations over and over again with the same results.

At the time, I had no knowledge of what it feels like to have the persistent worry, which goes along with an anxiety disorder. Nor had I developed any skills to communicate in a way, which would be good for both of us.

My desire to help was not enough!

I would start out calm, loving, and kind but after an hour things would escalate. I just don’t entertain uncertainty in this way and to agonize over what might be is just not in my DNA. I would say all of the things I thought would work, “Just don’t worry.” “That will never happen.” “Go for a walk.” “Think about something different.” Then I would rub her back for comfort, but not even that would work. I would begin to unravel.

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why someone would dwell on what might be instead of what is.

Of course, emotions would rise. Then hysterical crying would begin, and the volume of my voice would increase. Now the calm mother with a desire to help turned into an exasperated mom who would stomp out of the room saying, “I’m just no good for you when you’re like this, and I’m leaving your room.”

Then from the other room, I would cry, as I heard her hysterically sobbing. I would think to myself, “I am a failure because I can’t even comfort my child.”

Together we repeated this song and dance for quite some time, years in fact. It always left us both exhausted. We seemed to find ourselves at a crossroad every time she needed her concerns embraced, and I needed them to stop, for me to feel okay.

Fast forward ten years and you will see quite a different mother and daughter interaction in the midst of her anxiety. It isn’t perfect, but we have both worked hard at finding ways to meet in the middle and embrace her disorder. Below are a few suggestions that might help you interact better with someone who is in the midst of anxiety and worries.

Eight Strategies For Loving Someone With An Anxiety Disorder

Set a time to talk: When possible, we set a time to talk. Waiting to talk gives me a chance to get in the right frame of mind.

Set a time limit: Set a time limit: As a semi non-worrier, I can handle worry talk for about 10 – 15 minutes without becoming exasperated. Naming and labeling thoughts can help reduce worry and anxiety. See last weeks post here.

Be present: Stay grounded, concentrating entirely on this moment.

Seek professional help: An anxiety disorder is real. It is challenging for the one with the disorder and those that support them.

Validate: Find the truth in what your loved one is saying and acknowledge it. Validation can magically bring down one’s anxiety.

Acceptance: Accept that your loved one has apprehensions instead of trying to convince them they “shouldn’t be worried.”

Education: Learn all you can discover about anxiety disorders. Understanding what is going on in someone else’s world can bring about a new perspective and compassion. Click here for a link to some great resources.

Self-care: Make sure you are taking care of “you.” Remember, who puts on the oxygen mask first in an airplane. Sometimes this may mean taking a step back to rest and letting others step in to help out.

You are important too!

We may never know what it feels like to have an anxiety disorder. But, we can educate ourselves to get a better understanding of what someone who lives with a disorder experiences.

Education along with developing our skill set and support from others will allow us to be helpful without becoming exasperated.

All of us can help in some way

The good news is even if our loved ones don’t change; a small change on our side can make a huge difference for everyone. I can guarantee you; my daughter and I don’t always do it perfectly

She still has an anxiety disorder, and I still get agitated from time to time. Using the strategies above can help.

Do you have any tips for helping a loved one with an anxiety disorder or persistent worry? 


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25 Comments

  1. Reply

    sarahgirl3

    I’m a worrier and so is my oldest. When she was in first grade, she held it all in until she couldn’t. After that night where she first started talking to me about her anxiety, she became much quicker at talking. I hope telling me always helps! Anxiety can be so isolating.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Sarah, She is so lucky to have a mom who will patiently listen. I know my daughter always says, “just being able to talk and get it out helps.”

  2. Reply

    debwilson2

    Maree Dee, I really like the suggestion to set a time limit and a time. It does no one any good to get exasperated which I can do in such circumstances.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I know it was magical for both of us. It is so easy to get exasperated. I know I do.

  3. Reply

    Lisa notes...

    I’ve been on both sides of this issue. Not with a serious anxiety disorder per se, but I am one who is prone to worry. Your eight strategies seem very good to me! Both to give and to receive.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Lisa – I am so glad you found them helpful on both sides. You might also like the post on “Five Tips to Embrace and Manage Our Worry.” It is so funny when I started on this topic I didn’t think I worried. It has become so evident we all worry, even me. I learned a great deal to help me manage my worry less. Thank you for stopping by. Maree

  4. Reply

    robjodiefilogomo

    Thanks for these ideas! It’s so hard to know what to do, when you feel differently than the other person!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com
    #christianbloggerlinkup

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      This is so true. I always think what works for me will work for someone else. It doesn’t ever seem to work that way.

  5. Reply

    Dolly Lee (@SoulStops)

    Maree,

    Thank you for this helpful and honest post. I think your point about validating where you can and also knowing your own limits is so true. Blessings 🙂

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I know I like to be validated from time to time. Don’t you. Thank you for stopping by. Maree

  6. Reply

    Sheila Qualls

    Maree,

    Very informative post. Great job of bringing me in as a reader. One of my children struggles with anxiety. It can be frustrating. Your tips are helpful. It’s an exhausting cycle. Looks like your words touched many. Thank you.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Sheila — Thank you for your kind words and all of your help. I am so glad the tips are helpful, it really can be an exhausting cycle.

  7. Reply

    Bette

    Thanks for sharing this, Maree!

  8. Reply

    Julie

    Great post! I have struggled with anxiety, but I have never read it from the supporters role.
    #FreshMarketFriday

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Julie, Thank you for stopping by. Fist off sorry you struggle with anxiety. It can’t be fun. Any tips for supporters are welcome. Many times we want to help but just don’t quite know how.

  9. Reply

    Christine Duncan

    So I just shared this on Twitter and now to FB with my readers, as I live with chronic depression and it often goes hand in hand with anxiety… what a great post, super honest and so practical. These tips are so doable and can apply to so many situations. I’m super glad to have come across your blog through #FreshMarketFriday!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Christine, I am so glad you came across my blog too. Thank you for sharing. Please do not hesitate to offer any additional words of wisdom. Maree

  10. Reply

    sherrylynnstahl

    Thanks Maree,
    Here’s the link to my taping on 100 Huntley Street about Anxiety and Depression:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTv63piz46I
    I’m just working on a blog post about it and the questions I’ve received from people. Hopefully will be posted very soon.
    Here’s the link to my friend’s site. The course is full but it will be offered again. http://sarah-e-ball.teachable.com/p/fearlesstraveler
    Great connecting with you.
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Sherry,
      Thank you! The video was well worth watching. Thank you so much for sharing with all of us at Embracing The Unexpected.

      Maree

  11. Reply

    Brenda

    ((Hugs)) to you and your daughter. Great list of tips. My 21 year old son struggles with anxiety and it’s heart-breaking. He’s finally getting to the point where talking can help a little in the moment, but mostly — we talk about it and I tell him all the wise/comforting/whatever things I know to say, but his mind is in “yeah, but” mode. Once he’s removed from the feeling some, I do think he hears the things we discussed play back in his mind some. It does take an act of patience for the one on the other side of it, though, doesn’t it? And, I know it feels even worse for them. And, honestly, you’d do anything in the world to help, but it feels, sometimes, like nothing helps. Prayer. That’s my biggest resource. Prayer. — Prayers for y’all as well. Glad to hear you’ve seen some improvement over the years. — Thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity today. ((hug))

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      ((Hugs)) back to you and your son. Thank you for sharing what works for the two of you. That is great that he can retain and reflect back on what you say at a later time. Yes, I agree our struggle does not compare to the one that has the anxiety. Prayers are what works for me too. Prayers are going out your way tonight.

  12. Reply

    Michel

    Thank you for sharing Mauri!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I hope the strategies work well in your family; I know they have helped us. I bet some of them look familiar to what we went over in our class. Hope all is well in your family.

  13. Reply

    sherrylynnstahl

    Maree, we have a lot in common! My daughter struggled with anxiety that led to deep depression. I have been interviewed on TV twice for this in the past month. In Canada we have something called #BELLTALK which focuses on talking about mental illness. Trying to break the negative stigma for people who suffer. In case you want to see my show I could send you a link? My friend also has released an online course for overcoming Anxiety & Depression that you may be interested in. Let me know if you want me to send you anything on it. Her book is being published in January of 2018 discussing the same.
    I love your practical tip for parents.
    I found your blog through Brenda’s #ChasingCommunity Linkup. Praying for you today.
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Sherry, I am so glad you stopped by and read my blog post. I would love to have the link and find out more about your friend’s book. Please feel free to leave it in the comments; someone else might benefit from it too.
      My email is maree.dee@www.embracingtheunexpected.com if you prefer to send it that way.

      Helping families support their loved ones is a passion of mine. I do not want anyone to feel alone or give up.

      It was great connecting with you.

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