How to Communicate with People Suffering from Anxiety
All of us have been a part of conversations where a loved one speaks to us about his/her struggles with anxiety. If you don’t communicate properly in the conversations, it leads to a lot of awkward silences. It is essential to know that across the globe, around 264 million people suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety is turning out to be a bigger problem than ever before! To converse with people who have anxiety, you must master the art of knowing what to say and not say. As you read further through the article, you will learn key points that will help you communicate effectively with people who feel anxious.
Choose words carefully
Your speech has the power to make and break relationships. Avoid saying things like ‘Just relax’, ‘take it easy, etc. You should know better because anxiety is a complex reaction, and you are disrespectful to people by asking them to calm down.
When anxiety is triggered, the fight-or-flight response is activated in the body. The response stiffens your muscles and raises the heartbeat. The triggering of the fight-or-flight hormone keeps you alert. Once anxiety is triggered, it takes time for the fight-or-flight hormone to subside. So, the use of phrases like ‘just relax’ invalidates people’s experiences suffering from anxiety. As a result, there is a breakdown of communication between you and the other person.
As you talk, use empathetic language to initiate meaningful conversations. As people open up to you about anxiety, listen to what people say. Don’t interrupt people by saying things like ‘I too have problems in my life.’ Remember that people who open up to you trust you to understand their experiences.
Therefore, you should respond to what they say constructively. Also, avoid saying things like ‘don’t be negative,’ ‘avoid bad thoughts,’ etc. First of all, anxiety is a trauma-based reaction to painful experiences. When anxiety is triggered, it becomes difficult for people to stay positive. They fall back into patterns of thinking that force them to feel negative about life.
When you make blanket statements like ‘don’t be negative,’ people start to feel misunderstood.
Avoid suggesting alcohol
Advising people by asking them to have a drink to deal with anxiety issues? You should avoid doing that because it is risky when alcohol is used as a coping mechanism.
There are high chances that people would develop an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. For instance, a person suffering from anxiety might turn to alcohol to escape from anxiety.
Since alcohol is a sedative, it helps to ease one’s worries. However, alcohol consumption is dangerous because it leads to the change of the serotonin levels in the body. This, in turn, induces anxiety. Hence, you must be responsible for what you suggest to people with anxiety.
Develop good body language
“You can tell a lot by someone’s body language,” said Harvey Wolter. By observing your body language, people know whether you are listening to them or not. To have conservations about anxiety, you must ensure that you have good body language.
To start with, keep away your phone. Stop texting while people are trying to make sensitive conversations with you. If you appear distracted and disinterested, you will be having a tough time with people.
As a result, people would prefer to keep their problems to themselves rather than approach you to seek support. Change your body language. Maintain a calm and composed posture so that it becomes easy for people to approach you and share their struggles. While talking, you should maintain regular eye contact and pay attention to what people say.
Respect personal space
People need time and space. Even if you know about someone’s anxiety problem, you should bring up the topic of anxiety only if the other person is willing to speak. Don’t keep bringing up the topic of anxiety randomly, as it might trigger people.
Avoid asking intrusive questions like ‘are you feeling anxious now?’. Questions like these might trigger anxiety. Even if you feel that the other person needs help, you should first ask the person if he/she is ready to speak to you. If he/she is not ready, you need to respect that. Don’t say things like – ‘you are not opening up to me.’ This can make people feel guilty about their choice to speak or not speak.
A final point to keep in mind is that we are different; we react differently to things. Just because somebody has revealed to you that they suffer from anxiety doesn’t give you the right to tell them what they feel is wrong. Don’t start talking about your struggles with anxiety and how you dealt with it.
Remember that everyone has their journey, and you must be there to help, not teach people about how one must face life. When people tell you that they feel mentally vulnerable, be kind and respectful.
Whenever you interact with people who suffer from anxiety, you need to make them feel safe and comfortable. To communicate with those who suffer from anxiety, you need to learn what to say and not say to them.