7 Unhelpful Comments to Avoid, and What to Say Instead
It seems like anxiety is on the rise. If you know more than 10 people, chances are great that you know someone with an anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder will target about 9% of people throughout their life, and that is only one of several common anxiety disorders.
With all of this anxiety around you, it is natural that you want to take steps to help the people around you. After all, you are a caring, loving person who is interested in their wellbeing.
Helping someone with anxiety can be a confusing proposition, though. Most of the time you’re not sure if you should say anything – would it even be helpful?
The truth is that talking to people about their anxiety can be a huge benefit to you and them, but the threat of damage exists. Because of this, you must be aware of the risky things to say to someone with anxiety.
“You just need to relax.”
Yes. This statement is true, but for the person with an anxiety disorder, it feels like an impossibility. Their mind and body are so used to being tense that they have probably forgotten what true relaxation feels like. If they could relax, they would without hesitation. It is easier said than done.
Try this: “It seems like your anxiety is high. We should sit down to research some relaxation techniques that could help. I heard the progressive muscle relaxation can do some good for people with physical tension.”
“You just need to clear your mind.”
People with anxiety would love nothing more than having a clear, calm mind. Sometimes it just isn’t in the cards. Just like with the example listed above, if they could clear their mind, they would.
Anxiety fills their mind will so much fear, dread, worry and extraneous information that clarity is impossible to obtain. People without anxiety can never know the shear quantity of information that fills someone’s mind or the speed at which ideas spin.
Try this: “If you are having a hard time dealing with your thoughts or your worries, you could talk to me about them. If that doesn’t seem very comfortable for you, you could try writing them down. I hear people have success with that.”
“Just take a couple of deep breaths and count to 10.”
When people think about effective relaxation techniques, they tend to oversimplify the diaphragmatic breathing exercise. They think that “taking a few deep breathes” will do a world of good and can improve even the most severe anxiety. This, of course, is not true.
Deep breathing is a great notion built from a tested relaxation technique, but it must be practiced during calm periods before it can be used in high-anxiety situations. Usually, when people with high anxiety try deep breathing, it makes their anxiety worse because their deep breathing is more of a hyperventilation with shallow breathing. In this case, “a few deep breaths” can do more bad than good.
Try this: “I did some research about panic attacks and deep breathing. I printed out some information. I would love to go over it together sometime because I think it could help.”
“You would feel better if you got out more.”
This one is true, but that doesn’t make it an appropriate thing to say. This one is like saying, “You would feel better if you ate better and exercised more,” to an overweight person. They know this would help. They know that getting out would make their symptoms much better in the long-term. The problem is that the short-term risks are too great to ignore.