This month we wanted to answer a couple of reader’s questions. Thank you for your submissions and we hope you find these answers helpful!
How to be empathic to someone who is going through high anxiety without it triggering you or making you feel too stressed?
It is extremely likely that we will all go through our lives and experience either ourselves getting anxious, or a loved one, so firstly it’s important to know you are not alone in this. It can be very tempting to want to try and fix the other person, let’s face it, we don’t like seeing those we love suffer, and so it would make sense that we would go into problem solving mode. The difficulty with this, is that we can’t fix how someone else feels, and if we continue trying, we are likely to burnout ourselves at some point. Here would be my top things to consider when supporting a loved one who is suffering with anxiety;
- Be there to listen. I mean really listening, so not listening with what you think you already know is the answer, or what you believe they need, but actually listening with an open mind. Just them knowing you are there to listen will mean so much.
- Prioritise yourself. I know this can be difficult when you feel like they need you more, but in actual fact you are much better placed to listen and support them when you are feeling more grounded in yourself. Do not be afraid to reach out to professionals and get outside support rather than taking it all on yourself. Remember nobody has the ability to ‘make’ you feel a certain way, so any stress you feel whilst supporting them comes from your thoughts and the pressure you put on yourself, so be mindful of that and listen to what your body is telling you.
- Communicate. Encourage conversation when possible but equally don’t force it. They will talk when they are ready, and so all they need is a reminder that you are there to listen when they are ready to talk.
- Remember that this is all temporary, and although it can feel so overwhelming for all of you, it isn’t always going to be this way. Try and encourage your loved one to do things that bring them some joy. When we are suffering it can be so easy to see everything in life as a struggle, and take everything so seriously, but there is always space for love & laughter and maybe you can remind them of that.
- Reassurance that they are still loved can be helpful. Often when people are feeling anxious they have an element of negative self talk and their self esteem may be low. They may see themselves as inadequate or not enough but that is not true. Tell them and show them they are still loved.
- Compassion is like a super remedy. It can be frustrating and stressful when a loved one is anxious, but what they really need is compassion and understanding. Try and take a step back from it all and remember they are doing their best given their thinking at the time, and so if their thinking is off, it may seem that they are making poor decisions or not helping themselves as much as you believe they could, try and show compassion.
My anxiety just won’t go away, so how do I handle it?
Everything in the answer above also applies to you! Show yourself patience, love and compassion where possible, it will really help you. Understanding how human nature works is also really beneficial so I will start by sharing three key points with you below;
- We are human beings not robots, and so when we are doing too much, not listening to our mind and bodies, our bodies will slow us down or even bring us to a grinding halt. This may manifest in coughs, colds, illnesses or mental illness like anxiety or depression. The better we get any recognising the signs earlier, the less likely we are to end up feeling completely overwhelmed.
- Thoughts create feelings. If you have a busy mind, it’s likely that you will have physical symptoms associated with a busy mind such as feeling tired, sick, headaches and so on. If we find ourselves in a cycle of overthinking our body will start to produce a lot of adrenaline (which can feel very physical) and this can then be another thing to worry about. It’s a completely natural process and as soon as our minds start to settle so will the adrenaline levels.
- Acceptance is key. I regularly hear people talk about fighting or battling their anxiety, showing it who is boss. Now this may feel like it works temporarily, but it often doesn’t last. The reason for that is that anxiety isn’t the enemy, but rather an indicator that our thoughts are off in a negative direction, and that we need to listen and slow down. This is actually a gift, a love letter from our body to alert us. If we pay attention, and as a result, reduce the pressure we put on ourselves then the body and mind will naturally reset to a wonderful place of innate wellbeing that is within us all!
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