step 1

Step 1 is one of the hardest steps for those with anxiety. Step 1 is one someone realizes they have a problem and asks for help. And for those who walk alongside the lost, this is when you find out that your friend or sister or brother or parent or child or whoever is struggling with anxiety, or really any mental illness for that matter. Step 1 is hard for them, because it requires a lot of vulnerability, honesty, and trust. If they are talking to you, it means they have a lot of trust in you, and if you stop listening, it might just be the thing that crushes them.

Step 1 is also hard for you, because it goes a lot better if you can relate, or at least understand. As a human, you have probably had at least one panic attack in your life. You might have frozen up during a test and couldn’t think. You might have gotten so nervous during a speech that you felt like the walls were closing in on you. But maybe you can’t remember one. And that is ok. You can still help. You have most likely been afraid of something several times in your life. Now imagine all the fear you have had throughout your life pushed into a 20-30 minute time period. Now imagine that those feelings continue 24/7 to a slightly lesser degree. That’s the basics of a panic attack, but it can be a bit more complex than that. It can involve other symptoms that vary from person to person. Listen so you know what your friend’s anxiety feels like to them.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Listen and just be there. This is the single most important thing to do, especially when you can’t relate and don’t really understand. Sit there and allow them to cry or talk or scream. Give them a hug or let them squeeze your hands or just sit there. At first, you have to let them lead, until you learn how to best help them. I’ll go into more detail with this in a later post.
  • Be patient. They may have even been unintentionally dishonest with themselves for years. Even if they were aware that they were suppressing things, they probably did not realize how much they were hiding. Even if they were honest with themselves, telling you might be their first step toward healing.
  • Fears that seem irrational to you seem completely logical to them, especially during a panic attack. A panic attack can be based off of seemingly the most ridiculous thing. Don’t laugh or tell them they are crazy. It’s serious to them.

The best way to help anyone with anxiety is to listen and be there. Your actions speak louder than words, so sit, listen, and just be a faithful presence. Jesus knows them and their anxiety better than you ever will, because He created them. He will you the strength to help them and them the strength to continue their fight.

understanding anxiety

Anxiety. 7 letters. The most complicated thing I know. Organic chemistry, calculus, human physiology… no problem. I did well in those classes. Anxiety is a whole new level of learning. Understanding anxiety requires vulnerability.  It is scary and it is hard. It comes through hours of thinking through things, talking through things, dealing with things, etc., etc. etc. And then the illogical starts to make sense. I have this fear because this happened. These thoughts caused that ultra-realistic daydream. Understanding anxiety requires bringing up thoughts and emotions you never wanted to touch, let alone think through with a counselor or trusted friend.

Our culture has the expectation of pretending to be perfect, but healing can only come through honesty – being honest with others (that you know you can trust) and yourself. Honesty means allowing yourself to cry in the middle of a worship service when you feel the need to let it all out. Honesty means confessing sins of hurting yourself or not trusting God completely or going to something else before turning to God or whatever to God. Honesty means being honest to yourself and to others that you are not doing just fine. Honesty is hard. But honesty is the means for understanding anxiety. And understanding anxiety is the means for managing it.

Anxiety is the most complicated thing that I’m trying to understand right now. And that’s ok, because one day it will make a little more sense. And when it does, maybe the struggle will be a little bit easier.