Corona Times: How to Help Someone With Anxiety About the Unknown
It isn’t always easy to know how to help someone with anxiety. We’re not used to this. The near lockdowns. The layoffs. The worry about those most vulnerable. And to top it all off, one of the most irksome aspects is we don’t know when it’s going to end. This lack of an exit plan is a major anxiety trigger.
During regular times, we are used to certain unknown time frames: When’s the baby coming? When will I hear back about that interview? When will they finalize that one last document so we can sign already?
The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is causing anxiety even for some of the most unanxious among us. For people who experience anxiety regularly, the coronavirus unknowns loom large.
You may know people really suffering from all the worry. You likely wonder about how to help someone with anxiety. People you hold dear, but you can’t see them today other than on Zoom. Or maybe you happen to see them in the grocery store – but remain six feet away. Or maybe you don’t even know them, and they seem anxious while in line at the pharmacy, and you contemplate trying to help them.
There are guidelines about how to help someone with anxiety, whether we live with them, chat with them via online video, or see them by chance locally. I am going to talk about one: Listening.
Listening is the most important thing we can do when it comes to helping someone with anxiety.
Why? Two reasons:
1. Our role is to help them to focus on their anxiety and channel it for their own benefit. Our role is not to talk about how we think they should feel, or what they should do. When we tell them what to do, or how to feel, we undermine their confidence, and unwittingly disempower them.
2. Well-meaning suggestions can also disrupt them, especially comments like, “Don’t be afraid,” or “there’s nothing to worry about,” or “no sense getting worked up over it.” These chime-ins, well-meaning as they may be, are actually dismissive and therefore add anxiety to the sufferer who now has to feel guilty about being anxious on top of what they’re worried about.
That having been said, we can ask guiding questions to ensure that they know we’re listening, and that we care. Let them know you are there, that they are not alone, and you want to support them with what they need.
To help someone with anxiety talk about their feelings, you can ask them how they feel, what they fear, and what would make them feel best. These are prompting questions for them to talk, and you to listen. Once they have your ear, they will feel more grounded, and you will too.
Listening and compassion enables an anxious person to feel grounded, and find their own secure footing from which to regain balance.
From there, they can forge their own solutions for handling the unknowns to come.
If you’re looking for more help navigating anxiety amidst the outbreak, my free online course Coronavirus Anxiety Toolkit compiles evidence-based strategies and tools to help and is available for access here. I will be adding to it as the need continues, and if there are topics you want to see covered, please reach out to me by email, or simply add a comment below.Learn more about my book Hack Your Anxiety and access free tools to help you manage the fear and anxiety going around the world today.