5 Ways NOT to Help a Friend with Anxiety Attacks, part 4: Good advice

5 Ways Not to Help a Friend with Anxiety Attacks

If ESPN broadcasted anxiety stats instead of sports scores, this would be the standing in my house:


I’m hitting the point in this pregnancy (27 weeks) where sleep is greatly desired, but I’m waking up more than I’d like. Last night I only got five hours of sleep before simultaneous heartburn, hunger, and the siren call of the bathroom got to me. After breakfast, I laid back down and tried to take a nap. Instead of passing out, however, I realized my breath was coming faster and faster, and my heart rate began to climb. Ever aware of the fact that what happens to me affects my baby, I had my husband take my pulse. I clocked in at 124 heartbeats per minute.

It only took a moment for me to really figure out what was going on. An anxiety attack was calling, and I’d left the door wide open. After a cautionary trip to the hospital last week to check on Jelly Bean, I’d decided to relax a bit until everything returned to normal. And while it was a good decision (in my opinion), it also meant I didn’t get nearly as much exercise as usual. (And exercise is my Numero Uno natural anti-anxiety “medication.”) Of course, there was also the song I was going to sing in some dear friends’ wedding this afternoon, and the fact that we’re moving in about two weeks, and I’m nowhere near packed or ready.

In short, there were lots of reasons for the anxiety to creep in.

My husband had a decision to make when I told him the reason for my crazy heart rate. He had to choose his words and actions so that they helped me overcome my anxiety, rather than making them worse. And thankfully, he didn’t choose any of these.

Today is the fourth of 5 straight Mondays in which we are going to discuss 5 ways NOT to help someone having an anxiety attack. If you can follow these 5 rules, you may just find yourself a new best friend. Here is rule No. 4:

Start throwing good advice at them

This one drives me crazy. I have enough anxiety attacks that I can often pinpoint the source of the anxiety pretty quickly when one starts. Knowing what has caused the anxiety can be helpful to me personally, but when I’m having an anxiety attack, I’m going to be focusing on getting that anxiety down, reminding myself that everything’s going to be okay. I’m not going to be in the mood to problem solve.

If your friend is having an anxiety attack about a problem at work, it can be tempting to help her figure out how to fix the problem then and there. What she really needs, however, is a reminder that work isn’t her life. She might be in the mood to talk it out later when the anxiety attack is over (I often am.), but in the midst of the fear that swirls inside of her, she needs an anchor. She needs to know that you love her and you’re willing to wait for her. A simple hug or squeezing her hand kindly will probably go much further than supplying her with ways to tell off her boss.

Also included in this category is throwing scripture verses at them. Believe me, I love God’s Word, and while I’m outside trying to get a hold of myself, I’m probably quoting them in my head. But again, throwing them at me like a pill isn’t going to help. And if you tell me my lack of faith is the reason I’m feeling anxious, it’s only going to make my anxiety worse.

Remember, anxiety management is learning to see beyond feelings. My anxiety attack doesn’t mean I’ve lost my faith in God’s promises. It means I’m clinging to them for dear life while I battle the fallen body I inhabit here on earth. Telling me I’m being unfaithful is just going to make everything worse.

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