What do you say to someone that says they are anxious?

Since early childhood I have been shy.  As I got older I hoped I would grow out of it and, although my comfort zone is much bigger and I have better coping mechanisms, I still find myself living by the moto I took on when I was 18 of “feel the fear and do it  anyway”.

It sounds as though my biggest problem is facing fear, but in reality this isn’t the case.  My biggest problem is getting the support I need when faced with a stressful situation.  You see, if you are someone who doesn’t live with anxiety it is very hard to understand someone who does.  Just like I have no idea what it is like to be frightened of cats others can’t understand why I get so anxious about things like going through the airport process when I am not actually scared of flying.

When I am faced with a situation that causes me anxiety I simply need someone to be aware that I may be hesitant or a little distracted but, because many people don’t understand, I am often unable to share and ask for the help I need.  I will get through the situation but it is so much easier if I know there is someone who will support me through it.

So, I would like to challenge you.  Next time you are faced with someone who is anxious, forget that what they are saying makes no sense at all and ask them what they need.  You will probably find all they need is you to be aware and reassuring.  If you feel confident about the situation share that confidence in a gentle non-judgemental way.  Let them know you are there and all will be well.  In doing this you are helping this person expand their comfort zone gently.  Rather than being anxious about both the situation and your reaction, they are able to lean on your confidence and allow themselves to feel safe while in an environment that is strange to them.

With this there is the additional bonus of helping them build positive memories of the event if they every have to face that situation again.  Although I have memories of being so exhausted I was near collapse the last time I went through an airport I also remember my husband not judging me, holding my hand and getting me through it.  With this memory I am certain I would deal with an airport much better next time.

Forget it doesn’t make sense and just be there for them.  It will make the situation easier for all.

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