Around 20 per cent of Indian adults may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. If your loved one is suffering from anxiety, it can be a distressing time for you as well. Sometimes It can be hard to relate to their issues, or find the right things to say or do to help them. This article can help you out.
If they are having a panic attack right now.
- Stay with the person and keep calm.
- Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.
- Give them some space.
- Encourage them to breathe calmly.
- Listen and keep listening. Validate feelings.
- Reassure them “You can get through this.”
- Ask if they need anything, offer once, do not overwhelm them.
In the longer term
Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Understand that they are distressed and would love it if weren’t anxious. They do not want to spend hours worrying unnecessarily. Unless we are able to empathize without judgement, it is often difficult for us to find the right words to use to help them out. In addition to empathy, we also need to have a basic understanding of what they are going through.
“Imagine having to worry so much. Imagine being unable to focus on your work because of your worries. Imagine being unable to fulfill you desires and dreams because of scary thoughts. Imagine being paralyzed by fear”
Before you go on, it is important to understand that one cannot control the thoughts they have. We can only control what we do with our thoughts.
Make sure you are communicating effectively
I know you care, you know you care but every time you try to help, you end up making the situation worse. Care and concern sometimes get lost in the effort to help someone. While communicating with someone going through a tough time, be watchful of what you expect. Very often we let our inability to help translate into criticism and rudeness.
Satish has intense panic attacks every time leaves the house. His mom is very concerned about him and whats him to overcome his fears. Every morning she begs him to go for a walk to a nearby park. He often becomes overwhelmed and refuses. This results in a lot of crying, screaming and expletives used on both sides. She tells him to think positively and he storms off.
Friends and family often try to take control of their loved one’s anxiety by trying to provide helpful ideas and solutions. One has to remember most people with anxiety already know what to do, only that they are unable to execute. It is always better to try to understand how someone is feeling, rather than instruct them to think in a certain way or do something. Questions like “How are you feeling?” “You seem distressed, Is there anything that can help?” can pave the way to meaningful conversations. Expressing concern works much better that providing solutions.
Do not encourage avoidance
People with anxiety may want to avoid distressing situations. This often perpetuates anxiety. If you notice a loved one trying to avoid a challenging situation. Encourage them to give it a shot, do not force, order or advice. Please let them know that you know they are distressed and you are there for them. Try to talk about why something is distressing and why they want to avoid it. It’s common to want to help your loved one avoid painful situations by covering for them, this might work temporarily but often fails in the long run. Be assertive, calm and kind.
Encourage them to get professional help
Some forms of anxiety require treatment in the form of psychotherapy, medication or both. People may be reluctant to take help due to various reasons. It may help your loved one if you can find a doctor who can help. Treatment of anxiety can be challenging. During treatment, they may feel tired, helpless or agitated, they need your support during this time. Help them adhere to medication and appointments.
Take care of yourself
You might feel angry, resentful and burnt out. There is often a sense of helplessness that descends upon people who love and care for those with mental illness. Sometimes we end up directing our anger toward ourselves and those who are stuck with the illness. You have to remember that you need to take a step back, make sure that at least some of your needs are met before you try to help someone. Make sure you are eating right, make sure you have enough sleep and try to get in touch with supportive friends and family. If you are unable to manage the distress, take help from a professional. Dealing with caregiver burden.
Watch for burnout. You need to be well before you can take care of your loved one.