Six things to do for someone struggling with social anxiety
Having a person to count on is helpful for people with social anxiety. There are small things you can do to help people with anxiety cope with their situation.
- Talk to the person and offer help. No, you aren’t offering consultation or referrals. You are being a friend. You are letting them know in your own way that you got their back and although they don’t talk and express much to you, you are here for them. Simply asking “how can I help?” lets them know they aren’t alone.
- Respond to that person’s message. The message may be a sign or cry for help, and ignoring messages would create the feeling of abandonment which can worsen the anxiety for them. Sometimes, it takes so much for a person with social anxiety to muster up the courage to give you a sign or to share just a small piece of their thoughts. So offer a quick message that shows validation and care. It is time for you to practice your listening and intuitive skills for them.
- Be understanding. Anxiety comes in different forms. Even the simplest situations can create anxiety for some. Going to a mall may be nothing for you, but for a person with social anxiety, it could be tough. Do not assume that they are overreacting over small things. Show compassion.
- Reminisce over good things. During anxiety attacks, a person may ruminate over negative thoughts. They may not have the tools necessary to keep from thinking about things that can worsen the anxiety. What you can do is – talk about good memories and interesting stories that can help in coping.
- Initiate a therapeutic conversation. Avoid saying things such as “You don’t have to make things complicated”, or “You weren’t like this before”. Try phrases such as “I believe you will find a way to face your situation”. Active listening can also help. Make the person feel that you are there to understand and to listen. Be strength-based, not weak-based.
- Spend time with them doing nothing at all. Relax and spend some time outside doing nothing task-related. This is one way a person with anxiety can disconnect from the things that can aggravate the situation. Find activities that they like instead of always inviting them to your activities. They may not be able to initiate activities but if you initiate PLUS it is an activity that is not too overwhelming YET they love it, it could be a win-win.
These are a few simple things that you can do for a person with social anxiety. Remember that each person is unique and may have specific needs. Ask the person first and always ensure them that they have someone like you to count on.
Written by Isabelle Renarde