Why Listening Is The Most Powerful Way To Support A Loved One With Anxiety

Photo: Getty
Why Listening Is The Most Powerful Way To Support A Loved One With Anxiety
Health And Wellness

Active listening sounds simple, but it might actually be tricky to employ.

But with the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, learning how to be a better listener to someone we love who's dealing with anxiety is more important than ever.

It's not easy to help someone with anxiety. And we're not used to the current situation — the lockdown, the layoffs, and the constant worry about those who are most vulnerable.

And to top it all off, one of the most irksome aspects is we don't know when it's going to end. This lack of an exit plan is a major anxiety trigger.

RELATED: How To Help Someone You Love When They're Having An Anxiety Attack

During regular times, we are used to certain unknown time frames.

When's the baby coming? When will I hear back about that interview? When will they finalize that one last document so we can sign already?

But the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is causing anxiety even for some of the most cool-headed among us.

For people who experience anxiety regularly, the unknowns brought by the coronavirus loom large.

You may know people who are really suffering from all the worry. And you're likely wondering how to help someone with anxiety.

You miss the people you hold dear, but you can't see them today other than on Zoom. Or maybe you happen to see them in the grocery store, but you have to remain six feet away.

Or maybe you don't even know them and they seem anxious while in line at the pharmacy, so you contemplate trying to help them.

Fortunately, there are guidelines on how to help someone with anxiety, whether we live with them, chat with them via online video, or see them by chance locally.

The most important way is through listening.

RELATED: How To Love Someone With An Anxiety Disorder — Tips On What To Do (And What Not To Do)

Here are 2 important reasons why active listening is the most important thing we can do when it comes to helping someone with anxiety.

1. Our role is to help them to focus on their anxiety and channel it for their own benefit.

Our role is not to talk about how we think they should feel or what they should do.

When we tell them what to do or how to feel, we undermine their confidence and unwittingly disempower them.

2. Well-meaning suggestions can also disrupt them.

It's time to stop comments like, "Don't be afraid," "There's nothing to worry about," or, "No sense getting worked up over it."

These chime-ins, as well meaning as they may be, are actually dismissive and add anxiety to the sufferer who now has to feel guilty about being anxious on top of what they're worried about.

With that being said, we can ask guiding questions to ensure that they know we're listening and that we care.

Let them know you are there, that they are not alone, and you want to support them with what they need.

To help someone with anxiety talk about their feelings, you can ask them how they feel, what they fear, and what would make them feel best.

These are prompting questions for them to talk, and you to listen. Once they have your ear, they will feel more grounded — and you will too.

Listening and compassion enable an anxious person to feel grounded and find their own secure footing from which to regain balance.

From there, they can forge their own solutions for handling the unknowns to come.

RELATED: What It Feels Like To Have Anxiety And Depression At The Same Time

Subscribe to YourTango's newsletter to keep up with us for FREE

- Our best articles delivered straight to your inbox
- The latest in entertainment and news
- Daily horoscopes and love advice

Dr. Alicia Clark is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. If you're looking for more help navigating anxiety amidst the outbreak, check out her free online course, Coronavirus Anxiety Toolkit, which compiles evidence-based strategies and tools to help and is available for access. For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out her anxiety blog.

This article was originally published at aliciaclarkpsyd.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.