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Alex Frank / Spoon
Mental Health

Things To Say To Your Anxious Friend

If someone you know suffers from anxiety, make sure to check in with them and see what makes them comfortable. Here are a few tips to help you support your anxious loved one that won’t make them feel heightened symptoms: 

 

“Do you want some water?”

No, but also yes. At least in my case, water helps me calm my breathing down and I might say no at first, but water is a safe bet. There is a high chance that your anxious loved one might feel the same way. I also have a tendency to cry when I have panic attacks, so if I don’t need the water at that moment, I will probably need it shortly after my attack has ended. At the very least, maybe they’re thirsty and will appreciate the water.

“Is there somewhere else you want to go?”

Sometimes, no, it’s better to stay put, but other times, especially in crowds, if I am feeling anxious I want to get the hell out. Having a panic attack in public is one of the worst things that can happen, but sometimes for some (read: me) public spaces and crowds can be triggering. 

“What do you think about the weather?”

This tip isn’t so much to talk about the weather, but it is to say, “Hey! Focus on this!” For me, my brain needs to be distracted in order to come down off the panic attack (re: drinking water). Talking about something unrelated or mundane is really great in these moments, especially with someone I am comfortable with. So, no it does not have to be about the weather, but it can be about LITERALLY anything under the sun. Distraction is key—make the person think about something.

“How many green objects do you see in the room”

Again, this tip is a grounding exercise that I find really helpful. As I just said, distraction is key, so make them look around the room and point out anything you can think of. This could be a specific color, it might be a number of things, really anything to make them connect with the space they are in and distract them from the anxious thoughts they are experiencing. For me, my thoughts are a spiral, so turning my brain over to something else helps to break the spiral and cease the thoughts that were causing the attack. This is a really popular tactic that I think is underutilized by people who do not have anxiety, but so have friends that do. 

“Look at me!”

This one doesn’t work for everyone, but it is another grounding tactic that pulls the person out of their own head. Allow the person to hyperfocus on you, hug you, lean on you, whatever they need. Become the only person in the room, whether it means literally relocating them to a quieter space or just holding them tightly until they calm down (hugs can actually be really good for some people, think “weighted blanket effect”). Again, not specifically yelling look at me, but pulling them out of their own head and getting them to focus on something else

The most important thing to remember in any case is that every person is different, so in helping someone cope with their anxiety or come out of a panic attack, make sure to connect with them while they are not in an anxious state to see what works best for them. 

Talia is the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Emerson. Talia is also a Chapter Advisor, Region Leader, and HSA Advisor. She has previously worked as an intern for the national headquarters of Her Campus in the community management department. Talia is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College in a 4+1 combined bachelor's and master's program in publishing. She is an aspiring writer and publisher. Talia is known for living life with her journal, a pen, and three lovely cats.
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