Have you ever had someone tell you how they feel, and you couldn’t relate? It can be hard to talk to friends and loved ones when you don’t understand what they are going through. Here are some ways to navigate conversations with loved ones struggling with anxiety.
Take the Time to Listen to Them About Their Anxiety
Sometimes when we hear things we don’t understand, we can stop actively listening. When your loved one opens an honest conversation with you about what they are feeling, actively listen. Stay engaged. Let them know that you are listening with words and body language, if possible. It may be that they just need someone to listen to them. They may not be looking for guidance or help.
Make an effort to understand. It is okay if you don’t know what they are going through. Ask questions, and be open to what they have to say. By showing that you are making an effort, your loved one will have more trust in you. They’ll know they are safe to be vulnerable with you.
However, please remember, it is not the responsibility of your loved one to educate you on what anxiety is. If you truly want to communicate effectively with your loved one, you have to put in the work. Put in the effort, and do research! Look up what anxiety is and how it can affect someone’s day-to-day life. This not only educates you and gives you insight into how to support your loved one, but it also shows your loved one that you care.
Be Open and Honest
If you feel that a loved one is struggling with anxiety, let them know you are there for them. Let them know that you support them and care for them. Sometimes that is all it takes for a loved one to feel safe enough to be vulnerable with you. Tell them that you feel that something is off. Ask them if they are okay. Don’t push them for answers, though. Let them open up to you. You don’t want to force them to answer because that can have the opposite effect of what you want.
As your loved one is being vulnerable with you, you should try to be vulnerable with them. If you don’t understand what they are going through, tell them. It is okay to admit you don’t have all of the answers. Let them know your true feelings about what they have told you. Communicate compassionately if possible.
Ask What You Can Do to Help with Anxiety
Whether or not you understand what your loved one is going through, it is still a good idea to ask them what you can do to help. More often than not, they just need someone to support them and to be there for them. They likely want to feel heard and accepted.
Sometimes our loved ones feel like those who don’t struggle with anxiety won’t be able to help though. If you think your loved one is struggling with anxiety, it is beneficial to do research on the resources at their disposal. Maybe they would like help finding a therapist or a support group. There are plenty of options out there that people with anxiety sometimes ignore or write off. Sometimes doing the research themselves is too anxiety-inducing.
Be Validating and Encouraging
No matter if you don’t fully understand what your loved one is going through, always validate their experience and feelings. Nothing hurts more than being vulnerable with a family member and then being made to feel like your feelings didn’t matter. Let your loved one know that you acknowledge how they are feeling. Try saying, “I understand that you felt _____ when that happened. That must not have been easy for you.” Repeat the feelings they relayed to you and then remind them that their feelings are always valid.
While validating your loved one’s anxiety, you should be encouraging as well. Ask them if there are things that they could try to reduce their anxiety. Encourage deep breathing and other simple methods to calm their anxiety. Let them know that you are proud of them for being open and honest with you. Tell your loved one that you know they’re handling the situation as best as they can.
Talk to a Therapist
One way to learn how to talk to a loved one who struggles with anxiety is to talk to a professional who knows how to help. Psychoeducation goes a long way. You can learn the chemical explanations behind therapy. Moreover, the therapist can offer you strategies for communing with your loved one. Talking with a therapist may also show you some of your own struggles that perhaps you didn’t realize were there. You may be able to connect to your loved one in ways you never realized.
Mindfuli understands that it can be hard to talk to a loved one experiencing mental health struggles. By listening and validating their anxiety, you can show support for your loved one. Talking to a therapist or counselor can help give you insight into the experiences your loved one faces and how to properly communicate with them. Researching anxiety on your own or with a counselor will show your loved one that you are committed to supporting them. It’ll remind them that you’re a safe space. They can be open and honest about their anxiety. To connect with a therapist or counselor to help you open communication with your loved one, call (866) 973-4415.