When someone we know is experiencing anxiety, it can feel like there is nothing we can do to help them. It can be overwhelming to constantly answer questions, calm the individual, or help de-escalate their thoughts and feelings. This article will point towards some practical ways to help and to gain understanding of the anxiety at its core. Anxiety disorders are classified as mental illness, whereas regular anxiety is not. If you have an anxiety disorder, know that you are not alone. While the tips below will be helpful for both anxiety and anxiety disorders, an anxiety disorder needs to be treated by a doctor or counselor vs. a friend or family member.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling that is experienced as nervousness or worry. It ranges from mild to severe depending on the amount or extremity of symptoms. It can be felt as a response to stress or trauma or stem from an offset of brain chemistry. All people experience anxiety, it is a well-known feeling to many. However, it can be classified as a type of mental health diagnosis when it gets in the way of day-to-day life tasks for more than a 6-month period.
The feeling of anxiety is expressed in different ways depending on the individual. It is characterized by an excessive amount of worry in many areas of life. This means school, family, or work provoke worry. Symptoms can include restlessness, fatigue, hard time concentrating, irritability, increase in muscle aches or soreness and trouble sleeping. If you or someone you know are experiencing many of these symptoms, it would be wise to seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.
How Can I Help Someone with Anxiety?
There are many different ways to help someone with anxiety, this is not an exhaustive list. However, this list can serve as a springboard into more intentional care for those who struggle with anxiety.
Pray. Pray for the person who struggles with anxiety. Anxiety is exhausting and hard. It is likely the person you know is feeling overwhelmed and they need your prayers. Intercede on their behalf that they would feel God’s peace over their situation.
Listen. Listen to understand the person. Do not just wait for pauses in the conversation to tell them how you think it should be or that their anxiety is not warranted.
Encourage. Guide them to do the right thing, even if it is hard. Sometimes anxiety stems from the avoidance of something “scary.” Avoidance grows anxiety. When we face anxiety, and the worst-case scenario does not happen (or does and we live) we realize that it was less to be worried about than we thought originally.
Help. Sometimes what a person needs is to take all their thoughts and organize them. Help others by, after asking for their consent, to help them write down a to-do list of the next achievable steps. When we feel like we have a tangible next step, we feel like we have more direction in what to do. This next step could look like a number of different things for each person. No matter how small the step, taking action reminds us that after we lay our anxiety at the Lord’s feet, it is time to do the next right thing.
Send. If it appears the person needs professional help, broach the subject gently and from a place of care. If the anxiety is a disorder, then the person will benefit much more from a trained therapist. You can find a therapist who works with anxiety by asking friends or your pastor for a trusted referenced counselor.
Anxiety is treatable. In Christ’s death, He nailed anxiety to the cross. This means that we have power over our thoughts; we are not helpless to the things we worry about. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are told “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Anxiety starts in the brain as a thought. Take it captive. Notice it and then replace it with the truth. God has already won; we are not subject to anxiety. Speak out against anxious thoughts and in the power of the Lord’s name claim the truth of the gospel over your life.
What Does the Bible Say about Anxiety?
The Bible uses the word “anxious” several times. The most well-known of these verses is Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This very beginning of this verse starts with “do not be anxious about anything.” That is a pretty clear statement. Anxious in this context means exactly what you think: worried, concerned, or upset.
The Bible consistently points us to remember that God cares for us. In His divine care, He tells us not to worry. He is in control. When we place our full belief in Jesus, our perspective shifts and our anxieties decrease. What is there to worry about when we fully place our trust and know that God is in control and has our best at heart? Another verse that articulates this is 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The Lord doesn’t just say “give your anxiety to me” he says to cast it because He cares for you. He loves us so much that he does not want us to occupy our time with things He has already defeated through his death and resurrection on the cross.
In Ephesians 4:22-24 it says “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” When we “put off” our old self. We put off anxiety. When we are made new in the likeness of God we are freed of worry and free to live in the light of His promise of renewal of the spirit.
A Prayer for Someone with Anxiety
Oh Lord, you have complete power over our thoughts. Let us submit every anxiety and worry to you because you care for us. We see others struggle with anxiety and want to help them. We know that only you have this power. We ask boldly that you would look to those who suffer from anxiety and remind them of the power that your name has over every thought. We ask you to give us understanding as we help those who feel overwhelmed with anxiety. Let us be arrows that point others to place their cares at your feet. Thank you for caring about us and patiently waiting for us to come back and hand you our worries when they are too heavy for us to carry. We love you so much. Amen.
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Allison Auld is a young professional living in SC. She is a clinical counselor with a passion to help others grow and heal. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and good coffee.