Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Helping someone with Anxiety

This is a topic I feel is underplayed in today's society, whereas the actual Disorder of Anxiety is more known about, which is good. How are people supposed to know how to help and cope with someone who has Anxiety.

Everyone is born with different levels of anxiety. Some have it in a very minimal level and others have it to extreme. My whole family minus my dad are very anxious people but only one of my sisters have it to the extreme level. It has been brought to my attention very recently that anxiety can very easily control a person’s life in the worst ways. My sister, who is 4 years older than myself suffers pretty badly with the disorder, she has booked a vacation in 2 weeks time to Athens. Now I do not know about any of you guys here, but a 2 week holiday to sunny Athens sounds like bliss to me and I would be super excited for it! But for my sister, it is a completely different story. She is so nervous for it that she has cried herself to sleep every night for the past month and it will probably continue this way until she has actually gone. Now, the question arises for me in that, how is this possible? Why is she so disheartened by the fact that she will be going away on a vacation?

There are a few reasons which spring to my mind here.

1 She is worried about sunburn
2 She is worried about the flight
3 She is worried that she won’t like the food
4 She is worried that the apartment will not be as amazing as it is advertised

Not once did I start to wonder if it was because of her anxiety, but after talking about it with her for a few days now, she had described how she was feeling to a tee, so I could completely understand the issues she faces. Well, maybe not completely but I could see where she was coming from. And when asked why she was so upset about this upcoming holiday, she could not fathom why this was the case, it was just her anxiety screwing up the build up to the holiday, which is always such a good part!

She has described her anxiety to bring about the same feeling as when you are walking down a street and you accidentally trip up on a kerb and you are about to fall but regain your footing just in time and save yourself the embarrassment of a public face plant. Or when you swing on your chair and the back legs fall back just ever so slightly too much and you are about to fall backwards but you just catch yourself in time? Yeah, that cold-sweat, panicked, hair-on-the-neck-rising experience is a constant feeling for my sister and other anxiety sufferers and I could think of nothing worse.
It is with this description that I feel I can relate to her because sometimes I get that feeling even when the actual falling does not occur. I do not have it constantly like my sister but I do get it when certain events crop up in my life.

Anyways, without getting too much further into the description of anxiety, it is important for sufferers to understand that they are not alone and that those who do not suffer it at such an extreme level are there to help and support them. In fact, it is VITALLY important to enable them this comfort.
If you are someone who has just learned that a loved one or friend is suffering from this disorder, get in there and support support support. While anxiety may never completely disappear, it can be controlled with the correct help.

My tips for helping those with the disorder based on my experiences with my sister are as follows

1- It is not always something that a sufferer will want to openly discuss with you- it's a sensitive topic and discussing it comes with perhaps more anxious feelings because they do not want to be construed as being weird, so its crucially important to let them know that you are there to talk if they want to, but do NOT pressure them into talking about it and do NOT patronise someone for having anxiety.

2- Do not question their feelings. If someone is feeling anxious, try to refrain from asking them why, as quite often they themselves do not understand why they are feeling this way and it can lead to frustration.

3- Do not feel the need to bring up their anxiety during a random unrelated discussion as it can remind someone of those feelings when they may be feeling positive and comfortable at that moment.

4- Do not tell someone how to feel or how to help themselves. "if you do this, it will all get better", just be supportive and understanding and do not use yourself as an example. Life is so different for someone who suffers anxiety to an extreme level.

5- While is is so important for you to be there to support and help a sufferer through their anxiety, do NOT forget that you too will have a level of it and should not neglect your own problems as they will grow and grow and grow.

That about sums up my tips for being there to help someone with this disorder… in fact I should not really say disorder… what this post reminded me of when writing it was that many superheroes and movie characters have something that they need to control. Think of Elsa from Frozen… she had that disastrous power of turning things to ice and coldness but with time she learned to control it and she made beautiful objects and snowmen which came to life! So all you anxiety sufferers out there- stay saving our land. You’re all beautiful.