Listen: Sarah Wilson shares tips on helping a loved one with anxiety.
If you have a friend, partner or family member who struggles with anxiety, there are many things you can do to help them manage.
Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar and First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, has struggled with anxiety for most of her life and in a chat with Hope 103.2, she shared three keys to how to support someone with the condition.
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Tip 1: Understand They’re Not Trying to Control You
Often anxious people may be fussy and appear as though they’re trying to control people, particularly those closest to them. But many times it’s simply their anxiety at work, and they’re trying to control their environment, not people.
“If the loved one that can understand that we’re not trying to control them, we’re trying to control the circumstances that make us anxious,” Sarah explained. “It might be about where we sit in the café, or what time we have dinner, or whatever. We’re trying to control the circumstances so that we don’t ruin our coffee date, or our night together watching Netflix.”
Tip 2: Find Out What They Need in a Tough Moment
Sarah encourages anxious people to tell their partners and loved ones what helps them the most when they are struggling through a panic attack or an anxious day.
“A mate of mine told her husband, ‘When I go to my ‘cave’, you have my permission to come in and ‘get me’, and I’m going to reward you by not fighting it but really appreciating it and trusting you,” she says.
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Family and friends can show their love by sensitively supporting the anxious person, while also treating them as the same intelligent, capable person they know and love.
Tip 3: Make Decisions For Them When They’re Anxious
At times when Sarah is particularly anxious, she finds it hard to make decisions. It’s a common trait with anxiety. In those times, she says, it’s helpful if family and friends can take decisions out of the anxious person’s hands.
“I did this with a partner—I said, ‘look, take control, make decisions for me. The worst thing a loved one can do is go, ‘what do you want me to do’, or ‘do you want chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream’. Take decisions away from us.”
This trait is also why many anxious people do well with predictable routines, because routine reduces the number of decisions they have to make.