It’s a typical Thursday. I have errands to run, kids to pick up from practice, work to do for my 9-5 job, and dinner to get on the table.
My face appears calm as I move from one task to another. It looks like I have it all under control.
But underneath, I feel the opposite.
My heart is racing, and my mind is jumping from one thought to another.
I’m barely holding it together.
This isn’t rare for me. But, unfortunately, it’s almost daily—and I’m not the only one.
In America, over 40 million adults live with an anxiety disorder. [SOURCE]
Maybe you struggle with an anxiety disorder or know someone who is.
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.
Some people get anxious about upcoming medical tests before speaking to a large crowd or having a hard discussion in a relationship.
We can all relate to certain situations that spark anxiety.
Often praying, talking with someone, and reminding ourselves of the bigger picture can calm nerves and lead to a better frame of mind.
But it’s not so simple when someone struggles with an anxiety disorder.Struggling with an anxiety disorder can be isolating and lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 4 ways you can help.
The cause of their anxiety doesn’t make sense, and sometimes people can’t even pinpoint the source of their anxiety.
As Christ followers, we’re called to not be anxious (1 Pt 5:7).
This may sound straightforward, but it’s a battle for the one striving against anxious thoughts.
Anxiety disorder is defined as intrusive thought patterns that disrupt someone daily. It creates a foreboding over matters that shouldn’t trigger this response.
This mental health disorder can become consuming and keep people from leading a normal life.
Counseling, medication, and a robust support system can help one overcome anxiety hurdles and move toward a fulfilling life.
Christians who struggle with a mental health diagnosis may also struggle with shame.
They know the Word tells them not to worry, yet it’s hard to set their concerns aside.
Those with an anxiety disorder may feel like they’re constantly failing and not fulfilling what God has called them to do.
This cycle of thoughts exacerbates the battle with anxiety.
Worrying doesn’t change anything but steals our happiness.
How can we turn the wasted time of worry into an intentional use of our moments?How can we turn the wasted time of worry into an intentional use of our moments?
Lead a Friend with an Anxiety Disorder with Compassion
Compassion means “to suffer together.”
Compassion is the feeling we have when we’re faced with someone else’s suffering and want to help.
A person who struggles with anxiety can feel alone.
Much of what individuals are working through is internal and can lead to loneliness and isolation.
Taking the time to extend compassion in small, intentional ways shows you’re invested in supporting them.
Here are four ways we can walk alongside a friend struggling with anxiety.
Four Ways to Help a Friend Living With an Anxiety Disorder
1 – Validate their anxiety.
The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him. – Proverbs 18:13 HCSB
Avoid telling someone with anxiety that whatever she’s worrying about is “no big deal.” She already knows that it’s a small issue, but she’s stuck.
If your friend voices what’s making her anxious, listen without judgment.
Ask questions to help lead her to a conclusion. For example, “If this does/doesn’t happen, what is the best/worst thing that could happen?”
Sometimes she needs to “land the plane” and get her thoughts to stop circling inside her head. Your questions can help her ground her worries.The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him. - Proverbs 18:13 HCSB
2 – Communicate when you’re running late.
Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4 HCSB
For someone with an anxiety disorder, falling behind schedule can throw off her whole day.
If you don’t struggle with anxiety, having a person show up late without calling may irritate you.
But for those with an anxiety disorder, this situation can be scary.
She may be generating 15 scenarios regarding what could’ve happened to you.
Her mind is racing to determine how the rest of the day looks because the original timeline has shifted.
It is kind to take the extra seconds to text or make a call to spare your friend an episode of panic.
3 – Find ways to extend help.
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2 HCSB
Some people have a form of high-functioning anxiety—ambitious, organized, and appear calm.
However, on the inside, she’s overthinking every move or word she speaks.
She may appear organized because it’s the only way to control her scattered thoughts.
Instead of being calm, inwardly she’s a tight spring and must constantly be doing something.
Instead of giving more responsibility to this reliable one, offer to take something off her plate.
A small act of service can be an encouragement. For example:
- Help straighten up toys after kids finish playing.
- Wash dishes in the sink.
- Fold the throw blanket before you leave.
- Offer to get her mail from the mailroom.
- Get her a cup of coffee when you grab yours.
- Pick up her food trash after lunch.
These little acts of service alleviate the weight of burden for someone who believes she must do it all herself.A small act of service can be a huge encouragement.
4 – Remind them of Who is in control.
A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray. – Proverbs 25:11 HCSB
When someone struggles with anxiety as a mental health disorder, it becomes part of her identity.
Anxiety may feel like the glue holding her together and helping her get things done.
As Solomon reminds us, words spoken in love and compassion become a balm for our soul needs.
Gently remind her how God is over all things (Col 1:17).
From before time began, God was on His throne. Even at this moment, God is on His throne with Jesus beside Him.
The Spirit is moving throughout this earth, convicting and comforting hearts receptive to Him.
God has always held all things together in His perfect plan.
He is in control so that we don’t have to be.
We can rest in this assurance.
Struggling with a mental health disorder can be isolating and lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.
By acting with compassion, suspending judgment, and speaking the truth in gentleness, we can help a friend through her struggle.
This support can start with small, intentional moments. And it can begin with you today.
– Nichole J Suvar
Born out of her struggle with anxiety and depression, Nichole found help and solace in focusing on small moments of intentional living in everyday life. She writes to encourage others to take small moments of each day to intentionally seek after Jesus in every area of their life. Her book, Numbering Our Days: Combating Anxiety in the Power of Small Intentional Moments, helps readers move beyond the cycle of anxiety and into a life of purpose for God. Connect with her and download free resources on her website livewithintent.org, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.