How To Cope With Anxiety About Death
This article was co-authored by Ken Breniman, LCSW, C-IAYT. Ken Breniman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Yoga Therapist and Thanatologist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ken has over 15 years experience of providing clinical support and community workshops utilizing a dynamic combination of traditional psychotherapy and yoga therapy. He specializes in eclectic non-denominational yoga guidance, grief therapy, complex trauma recovery and mindful mortal skills development. He has a MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA Certification in Thanatology from Marian University of Fond du Lac. He became certified with the International Association of Yoga Therapists after completing his 500 training hours at Yoga Tree in San Francisco and Ananda Seva Mission in Santa Rosa, CA.There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 28,753 times.
You Have To Control Yourself
We often use this phrase to support a loved one in a bad mood, but is it beneficial? This phrase increases the collapsed persons sense of vulnerability and needs to hide his feelings. Also, the anxious or depressed person does not require anyone to remind him of the need to calm down and control himself, as he desires that very much, but he cannot do so.
Please dont be silly, everyone is busy with their own life, and nobody cares.
Some use this phrase to calm the persons anxiety with stress and to try to rid him of his delusional feeling that everyone is watching him and calling him harmful judgments. But it also doesnt seem to work, and the anxious person doesnt feel ridiculed or ridiculed.
Take Care Of Yourself Too
Recognize that your goal is to help, not to cure the person or relieve them from their anxiety. Taking too much responsibility is actually a symptom of anxiety, so make sure youre not falling into that trap yourself.
Keep in mind that your support doesnt need to be directly focused on anxiety. For example, exercise is extremely helpful for anxiety so perhaps you could simply offer to go for a walk or attend a yoga class together. Its also fine to put some limits on your support. A 20-minute de-stressing conversation while taking a walk is far more likely to be useful than a two-hour marathon discussion.
Helping someone with anxiety isnt always easy and you may feel like youre getting it wrong. But, if you remind yourself that you and your loved one are both doing your best, it can help you keep things in perspective. Its important to remain compassionate and, as the saying goes, to put on your own oxygen mask first. That way, youll have a clearer head for figuring out whats going on with your anxious loved one and how you can truly be of help.
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Knowing How Anxiety Works Can Help You To Better Support Loved Ones Without Inadvertently Making Their Anxiety Worse
When I first moved into my spouses house in 2001, she didnt want to include my name in our answering machine greeting. Because of our big age gap and same-sex relationship, she was justifiably anxious about how her parents would react to my having moved in so she kept it from them for several months. Though I felt a great deal of compassion for her and her situation, I was also frustrated that her anxiety was affecting meand I didnt like acting as though we had something to be ashamed of.
Scenarios like this are common when someone in your life is struggling with anxiety. Your loved one may feel so fearful that they avoid taking action, or act in ways that are inconsiderate or that increase your own anxiety. This might look like a boyfriend constantly putting off important tasks or discussions, a friend complaining about being lonely but refusing to date, or a boss always focusing on what could go wrong, making everyone miserable. Its difficult to witness anxiety in someone you know, and its even harder when their anxiety triggers yours.
But what can you do to help anxious people?
While its upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help. Here are some of the strategies I recommend based on my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.
Phobias And Irrational Fears
A phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little to no danger. Common phobias include fear of animals , fear of flying, and fear of heights. In the case of a severe phobia, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid the object of your fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.
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Making Conversation And Positive Affirmations
What a person says in response to someone having a panic attack is just as important as what they do. Engaging in conversation can distract from the extreme symptoms and help the person regulate their breathing. It is important to ask whether a person requires help rather than just assuming that they do. Here are some guidelines on what to say and do:
- Ask questions: Introduce yourself and ask if the person needs help. If so, ask them if they think that they are having a panic attack and whether they have had one before. This prompt may remind them about previous attacks and how they recovered.
- Stay or go: Let the person know that they do not have to stay where they are. Leaving a certain situation can take the pressure off someone having a panic attack. Find out what makes them feel most comfortable.
- Kind words: Staying positive and nonjudgmental is important. Help the person understand that you are there to assist them, they are safe, and they are going to get through this. Remind them that the panic attack is only temporary.
- Have a friendly conversation: An engaging chat can help distract a person from their symptoms. If you are a friend, gently bring up a topic that they are interested in to help them think of something else.
How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a brief but intense rush of fear.
These attacks involve symptoms similar to those experienced when facing a threat, including:
- intense fear
- head and chest pain
Panic attacks differ from a typical fear response because theres no actual threat involved.
The body is saying theres danger, when in reality theres none present, explains Sadie Bingham, a clinical social worker who specializes in anxiety and provides therapy in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Panic attack triggers arent always easy to identify, so people who have one attack often worry about having more, especially in public.
Panic attacks usually feel very uncomfortable and cause significant distress. Many people believe theyre experiencing a heart attack or other life-threatening issue.
If you know someone who experiences panic attacks, there are several things you can do to help them in the moment.
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Offer Support But Dont Take Over
Avoidance is a core feature of anxiety, so sometimes we may feel pulled to help out by doing things for our avoidant loved ones and inadvertently feed their avoidance. For instance, if your anxious roommate finds making phone calls incredibly stressful and you end up doing this for them, they never push through their avoidance.
More on Anxiety
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A good general principle to keep in mind is that support means helping someone to help themselves, not doing things for them, which includes virtually anything that stops short of actually doing it yourself. For example, you might offer to attend a first therapy session with your loved one if they set up the appointment. Or, if theyre not sure how to choose a therapist, you might brainstorm ways of doing that, but let them choose.
An exception might be when someones anxiety is accompanied by severe depression. If they cant get themselves out of bed, they may be so shut down that they temporarily need people to do whatever is needed to help them stay alive. Also, sometimes loved ones are so gripped by an anxiety disorder that theyre in pure survival mode and need more hands-on help to get things done. In less extreme circumstances, however, its best to offer support without taking over or overdoing the reassurance.
What It Looks Like
Someone with high functioning anxiety may be the picture of success. You might arrive to work earlier than everyone else, impeccably dressed, with your hair neatly styled.
Coworkers may say you are driven in your workyou’ve never missed a deadline or fallen short in a given task. Not only that, but you’re also always willing to help others when asked. What’s more, your social schedule also seems busy and full.
What others might not know is that beneath the surface of a seemingly perfect exterior, you’re fighting a constant churn of anxiety.
It may have been nervous energy, fear of failure, and being afraid of disappointing others that drove you to success.
Though you desperately need a day off work to get yourself together, you’re often too afraid to call in sick. Nobody would ever believe something was wrong, because you always portrayed yourself as being fine.
If these characteristics sound familiar, here’s a look at what you might experience or what others might observe of you if you have high functioning anxiety.
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Is It Panic Disorder
If you feel constantly stressed and anxious, particularly about when your next panic attack may be, you may have panic disorder.
People with panic disorder may avoid situations that might cause a panic attack. They may also fear and avoid public spaces .
“There’s no quick fix, but if your attacks are happening time after time, seek medical help,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Read more about panic attacks, including personal stories, at See Me Scotland.
What Should I Do When I Get Angry At Someone
Anger is an emotion that does not necessarily reflect reality. When they are deeply angry, they often react instinctively because the emotions are so real and powerful. Emotions come and go, but behavior has lasting consequences. If you are angry, try to remind yourself that this is just a feeling and that it will pass soon.
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Dont Suggest That They Just Calm Down
Anxiety can range from jitters before an exam or interview to a full-on panic attack or phobic reaction, says Haley Perlus, PhD. When youre trying to support someone going through anxiety, never trivialize their problem, or tell them to just calm down. Think about it: If they could relax on their own, they would not be experiencing the anxiety.
Breathe The Calm Back In
One of the best things you can do to soothe anxiety is to practice slow, controlled breathing. Even just consciously engaging in normal breathing can help settle your nerves. Here are some tips, especially if youre prone to hyperventilation when youre anxious:
- Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.
- Longer exhale than inhale .
- Hold your breath before exhaling. Pause a bit before inhaling.
- Breathe down into your belly. Placing your hands behind your head in a relaxed posture and leaning back a bit as if youre reclining beside a pool can help with this. Even better, close your eyes and imagine yourself on the beach as you practice this breathing.
- You can pair your breathing with soothing thoughts, words, or actions. Imagine blowing bubbles, pushing clouds through the sky, or count backwards from 300 with every breath.
- It’s also enjoyable to breathe in time to soothing music.
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Understand That Anxiety Isnt One
Anxiety triggers vary wildly from person to person, as do solutions for calming an anxious mind. For some, perhaps theyd appreciate you joining them in a moment of mindfulness, Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, the Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health, tells us. Other people may prefer you take a walk around the block with them or simply offer a safe space to talk and be heard. Its OK, she explains, to ask the persons preference so you can support them in a way that will be most beneficial for them.
Quick Read Anxiety Support 101
- Theres a difference between normal, everyday anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
- If an anxious friend decides to confide in you, its important to respond in a way that offers support and doesnt minimize their experience.
- If you dont have an anxiety disorder, avoid offering advice without listening to your friend.
- Show support by telling them youre there for them, asking how you can help and listening to what they have to say.
A unique kind of awkwardness blossoms each time I tell someone I have an anxiety disorder. This holds true no matter the scenario: Divulging my condition to my supervisor, telling a friend Im having a panic attack while were at a concert, or clueing in a new romantic partner.
Opening up to others is hard even if Im close with them because I dont know how theyll respond. Being stereotyped or treated insensitively when youre struggling can be nerve-wracking, especially if you already get down on yourself for having anxiety.
While everyone experiences anxiety, people experience differing degrees of severity, says Ty Lostutter, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety and treats patients at University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Anxiety is normal and healthy. It keeps us safe and motivates us, Lostutter says. It only becomes a problem when someone becomes overly anxious and it interferes with daily life.
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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Anxiety
With that in mind, it’s time to go over some tips on how to help a friend with anxiety. Note that every person is different and has different needs. There are some people who want to talk about their anxieties, and there are others who may have never mentioned it. So even with these do’s and don’ts, it’s hard to know exactly what you should do. However, this can be a helpful guide.
Dealing with anxiety is an uphill battle, and it does take a toll on others around them. Anxiety can strain relationships, and may even cause significant stress on a loved one. Some people find that they actually start developing anxieties of their own.
But a supportive friend is an extremely effective way to treat your own anxiety. Learn from the above tips to better understand how to help your friend, family member, or a partner and you’ll give them the best opportunity to overcome their anxiety and grow closer to you as a result.
Those that love someone with anxiety may feel helpless that they cannot help their partner or friend. Anxiety is treatable, but its also a very individual experience. Learning more about anxiety is the best thing you can do for them, as well as encouraging them if they decide theyre ready to treat it.
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How To Help Someone With Anxiety
All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people dont know how to best help someone with anxiety. People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety, says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you dont necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So its important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesnt make sense to you. Its distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.
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Dont Shame Or Minimize
Its pretty common to worry about having a panic attack, especially in front of strangers, or believe the attack might annoy or inconvenience friends or loved ones.
People struggling with anxiety or panic attacks might intellectually understand the response is illogical. But hearing that from someone else can increase their isolation, Bingham explains.
Avoid saying things like:
- Just relax. Theres nothing to be afraid of.
- Youre upset over that?
- Whats wrong with you?
You might not intend to make your friend feel ashamed, but denying the reality of their distress can certainly have that effect.
That Must Be So Difficult
âSomeone who is experiencing anxiety may feel overwhelmed, worried, stressed, fearful, isolated, insecure, and even agitated or irritable,â Myers says. So another way to validate their feelings is by acknowledging how stressful and taxing anxiety can be. Even if they donât want to verbalize what theyâre experiencing, this is a way to say âI get itâ without saying âI get it.â
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Learn Everything You Can About Anxiety Disorder Then Help Her By Providing Ongoing Information Support And Reassurance
They say that knowledge is power. This is particularly true with anxiety disorder. If you want to help an anxiety disorder sufferer, become an expert on the condition. The more you know about anxiety disorder, the more helpful you can be.
If you are truly interested in learning about anxiety disorder, we have many public pages that provide an overview of anxiety disorder. A good place to start is the Anxiety 101 section and our Anxiety Disorder Symptoms section. Better yet, become a Recovery Support member and learn the complete details of anxiety disorder, how it affects the body, and what can be done to overcome it.
Oftentimes, anxiety disorder sufferers can become so mired in their struggle that they have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. A knowledgeable support person can help them find their way and reassure them that everything is going to be okay.
Ongoing guidance and reassurance can play a pivotal role in recovery, especially with anxiety disorder recovery.