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5 Ways NOT to Help a Friend with Anxiety Attacks, part 5: Freak out

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:

Anxiety-1:Brittany-0

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 finale 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. 5:

Freak out

I honestly can’t think of any situation in which freaking out helps anyone or anything. It’s understandable if your friend’s anxiety stirs your own. No one wants to see their loved ones suffering, and it can be stressful to feel like you’ve just accepted a burden you weren’t prepared for. If the anxiety is so great, however, that you can’t contain your own flustered feelings, sharing them with your friend isn’t going to help him at all. Instead, feel free to excuse yourself for a few minutes to get him a drink.

“Hey, I’m going to get a drink of water, but I’ll be back in a moment. I’ll bring you some, too,” is a perfectly acceptable way to remove yourself from the situation long enough to bring your own emotions under control. Believe me, I know it can be stressful to let someone lean on you when they’re full of anxiety. I’ve been on both sides of the coin. But running around (or running your mouth) like a chicken with its head cut off is going to help no one. Deep breaths in a moment of silence might be better for both of you.

Being faced with a friend’s anxiety attack can be difficult. Believe me, I understand. But even on days when we don’t feel like we really want to handle this kind of situation, Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” God’s law is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). If there is no other motivation, we need to love our friends as best as we can because that is how we obey and show our love for God.

Bearing the burden of someone’s fear and angst is no easy task. But as with everything, it is one we can take to God in prayer. There’s a reason He put you in that place at that time.

Do you have any tips or experiences you’d like others to know about helping loved ones with anxiety attacks? Leave a comment in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!

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