Clean a toilet
Never underestimate the power of a glistening toilet or a vacuumed floor. When you are suffering from anxiety your level of ‘giving a shit’ about anything other than what’s going on in your mind is low. This includes menial household tasks. For me, I felt incompetent when I would come home from work and collapse on a heap on the couch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expected to come home and cook and clean for my husband, we run a very progressive household, and we are by no means ‘neat-freaks’, but I was contributing nothing, and the dishes on the sink from three nights ago were plaguing me. Most days I was exhausted from the five hours of anxiety induced insomnia followed by an eight hour work day and two hour round-trip commute. I’ll never forget the day when my sister secretly came over when I was at work and cleaned my house. I got home and burst into tears. It was a simple gesture and it meant everything to me.
Cook a meal (or order one!)
Similarly to the toilet cleaning, cooking is something that can more often than not, be too difficult to achieve during the hardest months of anxiety. Living on lean cuisines and tinned spaghetti is not the worst thing in the world, but a home cooked meal is always appreciated. If you’re no good in the kitchen, consider ordering something nutritious from organisations like Let Lulu (Melbourne based).
Remind us that we are loved
A text, a card, a phone call. They all go a long way. No one really sends letters or cards anymore and I remember feeling so special when I received an ‘out of the blue’ card from a family member. During those tough days it’s nice to know you have the support of your family and friends, and that people are rooting for you.
Remind us that it will get better
Even if I didn’t fully believe my husband when he constantly reminded me that things would pick up, it did make me feel a little better. We need that reassurance. I generally don’t like to admit when my husband is right and I am wrong, but in this instance, I’m glad he is.
Talk about worrying less
People with anxiety are built differently. In our minds, worry spins out of control, feeding our fight or flight response, making our brains and bodies feel like they are under constant threat. There’s no off switch, and it’s not as simple as telling someone with anxiety to “just worry less”. That’s like a telling a person with broken leg to just “heal faster”. It doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately, anxiety comes with a range of nuances.
Say negative things about anxiety treatments
Everywhere you go you will hear varying opinions on what does and doesn’t work as a treatment for anxiety. But saying something like “medications don’t work” to a person who might just be starting a new antidepressant is not helpful. Some approaches work for some people, and some don’t. What didn’t work for you might work for someone else and vice-versa. Don’t take away the hope that an anxiety-ridden superstar might have for a treatment. It’s like being punched in the vagina. It hurts and it’s unnecessary.
Offer support if you don’t mean it
Don’t say “you can always talk to me about anything” and then never answer the phone. You turd.
Judge if we cancel on you last minute
Anxiety often creeps into your social life, making social engagements seem like the most terrifying of tasks. I remember cancelling a massage appointment because I just couldn’t fathom how I was going to survive it. Crazy I know. It was a fucking massage! It’s supposed to make you feel relaxed. No, sorry, my brain had other plans. So if we can’t make it to the movies, or a coffee date, remember it’s probably not because we are shit friends, in fact, we would much rather be having a great time with you than stuck at home in perpetual anxiety hell.
So there you have it. I hope that if you have someone in your life with anxiety this will be of some assistance. It never hurts to educate yourself about what someone close to you might be experiencing. Remember to love them big and unconditionally (even when we can go from zero to 100 on the anxiety scale in 30 seconds or less).