You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
As a perennial overthinker and anxiety sufferer, I’ve received my fair share of advice, both good and bad. In today’s post, I’d like to share some phrases that we should all avoid when offering tips/advice to someone experiencing anxiety.
- Calm Down
When a person is overwhelmed with emotion and really struggling to cope, the last they need is to be told to calm down. From experience, hearing those words has only exacerbated my feelings of anxiety and made the situation more difficult to handle. Being able to calm down immediately during a period of anxiety is almost impossible. A person need times to release and process their emotions!
2. It Could Be Much Worse
By telling someone with anxiety that it could be so much worse, it not only invalidates their struggles but evokes guilt and increases the anxiety. Just because someone else may be in a worse place, it does not mean that your struggle is invalid. It’s important that we all remember that!
3. It’s All In Your Head
Way to state the obvious, eh! Of course all thoughts and fear originate in our head, however, that doesn’t make them any less real. This has been said to me numerous times in the past and it’s never helped alleviate any of my anxiety.
4. Stop Making Excuses
Particularly when somebody hasn’t experienced anxiety or mistakes it for general worries that everybody has, it’s not uncommon for anxiety to be viewed as an excuse. Cancelling plans or feeling too anxious to attend an appointment is incredibly debilitating and labelling certain behaviours as ‘excuses’ only decreases the likelihood of a person speaking out and the anxiety increasing.
5. Let It Go
Letting go is obviously part of the process of managing and reducing our anxiety, however I would argue that it is very much a long-term process. It’ll never be as simple as just setting our negative emotions free, like the flick of a switch. Almost nobody would struggle with anxiety if it was!
6. I Can Cope, Why Can’t You?
While everybody has mental health, some have better than others. Being able to express our emotions/struggle is a sign of strength, not weakness, and should not be ridiculed. It’s very normal to have emotions and periods of time where we struggle more than usual. Even if you find a particular situation easy, it does mean somebody else will.
7. Be Positive
The classic, cliche phrase. If someone is feeling anxious and downbeat, it’s very easy to say ‘be positive’, nevertheless this is generally unhelpful. You may say those words with the best intentions but it implies that the person’s feelings aren’t real and that anxiety is easy to deal with. I’ve received this advice so many times!
8. You Look Fine To Me
Whether it be anxiety, depression, bipolar or anything else, people with mental illness have been known to put on a ‘brave face’ and hide how they feel. Saying this to a person may make them feel accused of making their anxiety up.
9. Have A Drink
Having the odd can of beer may help in reducing our anxiety levels, however becoming reliant on alcohol to manage our mental health is extremely dangerous. Going out for a walk or starting a new hobby are far better suggestions!
If you have any feedback or phrases you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,