If you’re keen to support someone close to you with anxiety, it’s understandable to feel a little out of your depth at first. While identifying the cause of someone’s anxiety can go a long way in easing their nerves, there are also various other things you might be able to do to help.
First of all, what typically causes anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the UK and, while it’s particularly prevalent among younger people, it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds1. It can be caused by a number of things, from stresses within everyday life through to traumatic events or even another health issue2.
Everyone’s experience of and reason for feeling anxious is completely different, which is why it’s important to always be sensitive and supportive. If you have a friend or family member who you’d like to help get through a tough time, it’s worth discovering some tips on how to do this thoughtfully and effectively.
Four ways to help someone with anxiety:
Be there for them
When you’re feeling anxious about certain things, it can really put your mind at ease simply knowing that there’s someone close to you who cares. If a friend or family member is feeling particularly anxious, reach out and tell them you’re always free for a chat. Be patient, too; your friend’s anxiety may seem irritational to you, but to them it’s very serious and you might make them feel worse if you’re insensitive3.
Think of ways to distract them
While they may find it helpful to talk about the causes of their anxiety, they may also just be in need of a distraction. If that’s the case, think of some nice activities you can do to take their mind off more stressful aspects of their life. Go for a walk together, organise a fun excursion or simply meet them for a coffee at a local café – anything you do together will be appreciated.
Encourage them to seek professional support
While you don’t want to pressure someone into talking about the cause of their anxiety, it may be necessary for them to seek further advice from a medical professional or to attend a support group. If this is the case, gently ease them into the idea by being patient and listening to how they’d prefer to handle their anxiety.
Sometimes people who experience anxiety can actually become more stressed if they don’t feel ready or able to tackle what’s triggering it. That’s why it’s crucial that you do things at their pace and never push them. Simply suggesting an idea – such as finding a support group or considering therapy – can often work wonders as they’ll then know it’s a viable option in the future4.
Suggest they try a herbal remedy
There are a number of herbal remedies which have been used for centuries to help relax those who suffer from anxiety. These include:
Valerian root – recognisable for its pink flowers, valerian has been used for hundreds of years as a herbal remedy for nervousness, anxiety and insomnia, based on traditional use only. It’s able to relax the muscles and slow down brain activity so you feel calmer5.
St John’s Wort – another millennia-old herbal remedy used to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. St John’s Wort is thought to work by reducing the time it takes for the brain to use up serotonin – the body’s ‘happy’ hormone6.
If you’re worried about someone who has anxiety and think they might need professional medical help, try to gently encourage them to speak to their GP or a charity like Anxiety UK who specialise in supporting those with anxiety.
Last updated: 28 April 2020