We talk a lot about anxiety and ways to calm it, including peppermint essential oil and lavender. Now, we’ve compiled a list of struggles you’ll relate to if you have anxiety, because many of us suffer from it, at least sometimes, to varying degrees. As someone whose anxiety used to be pretty bad—cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or breathing exercises, anyone?—I can definitely relate to the not-so-helpful things below. If someone you love has anxiety, avoid these questions and phrases (which might cause them even more anxiety). Instead, suggest services like BetterHelp and Headspace that can help calm a panic-laden brain.
1. “Don’t Worry About It”
Isn’t it the worst when someone says, “Don’t worry about it,” yet they don’t know the anxiety monster that’s looming in your head, challenging every rational thought? Obviously, if we could “just not worry about it,” we would!
2. “Just Make A Decision”
Some anxiety sufferers have trouble making decisions, like serious trouble. Someone with severe anxiety can second-guess (or ninth-guess) everything from trying to decide to go to the store to how to spend their vacation. So if someone looks panicky when you ask them what they’ve decided or you tell them to “just decide already,” you may want to cut them some slack. A therapist of mine used to tell me that my OCD (a form of anxiety, of course) is “the doubting disease,” meaning your thoughts trick you. You think “something bad” will happen if you make Decision A, and then you think the same thing about Decision B. And then your head goes back to obsessing over Decision A. Soon, you go back and forth between Decisions A-G, and make no decision at all as a result! So, sometimes, the less pressure to make a decision, the better.
3. “Just Relax” Or “Just Breathe”
“I’m trying, believe me,” you want to say back when someone tells you to “just relax.” And the thing is, you are trying, but it takes you longer than other people to fully relax and feel calm and at ease.
4. “Just Count Sheep When You Can’t Fall Asleep”
Yup, there’s anxiety again, causing you bout after bout of insomnia. Your mind just can’t stop racing. Perhaps your significant other thinks your difficulty sleeping is temporary and simply suggests you count sheep. But you know it’s deeper than that. You try everything from avoiding certain foods before bed to eating certain foods at night. You also do other things, like putting lavender oil on your sleep mask to turning the heat down. So you try out some calming or sleep apps, like the aforementioned Headspace or Relax Melodies (I like the piano and rain together). And you try to sleep, you really do. Plus, you’ll do anything to avoid the question of why you can’t sleep, which only makes you think about it more, causing more anxiety and restlessness.
5. “Why Don’t You Want To Go Out/To That Party/To ‘X’ Event?”
Sometimes a person with anxiety wants to be antisocial—that’s all there is to it. You might know them as the most extroverted and social person ever, but if they’re having a bad week (or month…or several), they may need more alone time than you think. And, sure, while a social outing may make them feel better, it could also backfire and trigger their social anxiety. Of course, if a friend or loved one wants to be alone for days on end, there may be a more serious underlying problem. But if not, let them skip the party and stay home. After all, they could resent you later for dragging them out against their will.
6. “Why Don’t You Just Take Antidepressants?”
While antidepressants truly help some people, I know others who rely on them as more of a crutch and don’t try to figure out the root cause of their anxiety (i.e., through talk therapy, CBT, etc.). While I tried a few antidepressants during my very worst anxiety-filled period, I then worked with a therapist to learn “mind over matter” techniques—to fight my anxiety without pills. And, ever since, it’s worked. Bottom line? Unless you’re a trained mental health professional, don’t tell people with anxiety how they should deal with it.
If you suffer from anxiety, you’ve no doubt faced the above questions and advice from well-meaning friends and family. Hopefully, as they read more articles like this, they’ll see that it’s a bug in our brain chemistry—we don’t want to have that panic attack in the grocery store or stay up all night worrying, but right now, we simply can’t help it.