Do you often come across people with chronic anxiety? May be your friends and family members who often complain that they wake up with a weight on their chest every morning? These people are, in other words, dealing with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and constantly break into cold sweats or burst into tears.
You want to help them but might be scared that one wrong move can make it worse. So here are 7 things to avoid saying to those suffering from anxiety; these statements may sound helpful, but they’re not.
“YOU HAVE A LOT TO BE GRATEFUL FOR!”
You mean to say, “Look at the bright side,” but what they hear is, “I’m not doing enough to appreciate the good things in my life.” They are usually already dealing with guilt and shame for not being good enough. They think they’re a burden to people.
So instead, say, “I appreciate you.” Appreciation is better than gratitude, and everyone, especially them, need to know that they are appreciated for being strong and dealing with their troubles.
NEVER USE THE WORD “SHOULD”
“Maybe you SHOULD meditate,” “Maybe you SHOULD go see someone,” “You SHOULD not feel so sensitive about this issue,” or “You SHOULD not over think.” If you’re trying to help someone come out of anxiety, “should” is a word that most certainly NOT be used with them.
Never tell them what to do. Instead, ask them what they’d like to do. “What brings you peace?” “Would you like to go shopping with me?” “Maybe some meditation will help.”
Suggest them things to do to feel better, or ask them if they would like to do something that’d make them feel better. Leave the choice to them.
“EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY”
Instead, say, “Don’t worry, I am here for you.” Anxiety makes them feel isolated and lonely. Tell them you are there to help and you will always be with them.
“JUST BE HAPPY”
Aren’t they trying to be?
Anxiety is not just a matter of willpower and personal focus. There could be reasons or personal experiences that might have left them sleepless at nights.
Ask, “What Can I Do To Make You Feel Better?” Give them the option to pour their hearts out to you. Let them open up about what worries them and how you can help them.
“IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD!”
Yes, it’s a psychological issue, but it’s not in their control. This statement can actually make them feel helpless and crippling.
So switch to “Let’s go have some fun.” Take them out to a park or a pet shop. Help them de-stress by engaging them in fun activities.
“WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO BE ANXIOUS ABOUT?!”
Are you trying to tell them that their stress and anxiety is meaningless? Maybe not, but that’s what they understand from that statement.
Instead, ask them, “How can I make you feel less stressed?” Let them do a little soul searching and understand what could actually work to make them feel better.
“THERE ARE PEOPLE WITH MUCH BIGGER PROBLEMS”
Agreed. But does it mean it’s their fault? How is their anxiety anyway connected or relevant to those with bigger or smaller problems? The statement can actually make them feel worse.
So try, “I’m really sorry to hear that. Do you wanna talk?” You will see how their issues and anxiety are valid. You can make them feel better by helping them share their distress with you. You never know, maybe there is a way you can help end this struggle for them?
So the next time you see someone creeping into the darker depths of blues, if can’t say the right thing, at least know what not to say to them.