If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, chances are, you’ve felt misunderstood sometimes.
Maybe you’ve been told to “just stop stressing out.”
Maybe you’ve been labeled as attention-seeking or dramatic.
Maybe you’ve been met with plain confusion, making you feel all the more alone.
And what’s worse?
It can feel like people are running away from your anxiety — from you. At a time when you need their support the most.
On the flip side:
People without anxiety can feel worlds away from those who have it.
They’re not always sure where the anxiety comes from. They often can’t relate if they haven’t experienced similar anxiety before. And they may not know how to help.
This is understandable! In many ways, people with and without anxiety are coming from different places.
So — what to do?
As someone who has lived with anxiety, here’s what I feel could help:
Let’s talk openly and courageously about what anxiety feels like. Let’s lean in to the challenges that anxiety presents, and face them head on.
And let’s approach people with anxiety with a willingness to understand their experiences and everything we can do to help.
To that end, here are some reasons people with anxiety deserve some slack:
1. They Have Good Hearts
People with anxiety often just want things to go well. And the mere thought of something not going well can cause worries (to say the least).
Let’s say you’re hosting a dinner party, and you don’t cook often. You want to set the bar high for yourself, but you’re worried the food won’t turn out well.
This situation can certainly lead to stress! You want the food to be delicious, the wine to be flowing, and your guests to be happy.
In essence, your heart is in the right place. You want to do right by everyone and achieve what you’ve set out to achieve.
Now take that stress over the dinner party, amplify it, and apply it to other aspects of life, even when there isn’t a stressful event involved.
Maybe things are going quite well in your life, but anxiety sneaks its way into all kinds of things: your friendships, relationships, career, and even daily tasks. Worries slowly seem to take over.
People with anxiety often have good hearts and just want to do the best they can. At everything. And sometimes the fear of things not working out can become prevalent.
While fear isn’t what most of us wish for, those who also have good hearts are worth understanding (and celebrating).
2. They Aren’t Entirely Wrong
Managing anxiety is something I’ve had to work on in my life. And by “work on,” I mean reducing anxiety — not eliminating it.
But perhaps that’s for the best! Perhaps anxiety, at least in its mildest forms, can serve a purpose.
For example, some time ago, my friend and I were waiting to cross an intersection. There weren’t any cars around as far as we could see, so my friend suggested we cross.
But here was the rub: the “walking man signal” hadn’t yet appeared.
“Let’s wait!” I urged. “Just in case cars come out of nowhere.”
Was this my anxiety talking? Perhaps. The odds of a car hitting us were low. But as a former personal injury attorney, I knew of many cases where “cars came out of nowhere.”
Sometimes, people with anxiety have a low risk tolerance. And while I truly believe one must take risks in life, caution also has its rightful place in the world. In short, it’s all about balance!
3. Anxiety Isn’t Just Being “Stressed”
Anxiety is more than being “stressed.”
In fact, labeling someone who is experiencing anxiety as someone who is simply “stressed” trivializes what they’re going through.
Anxiety is often more than slight discomfort, or a feeling of nervousness.
It can cause a sinking feeling in your stomach, a tightness in your chest, and shortness of breath. In some cases, anxiety can feel so crippling that the sufferer ends up in the ER.
This isn’t to scare anyone, but more so to shed light on the experiences some people with anxiety have.
My hope is that by bringing awareness to the varying levels of anxiety, we can come together and create a supportive, understanding environment.
4. Managing Anxiety Takes Practice
I don’t believe anxiety can be eliminated forever in a matter of minutes. Managing anxiety takes practice, persistence, and patience.
That said, I absolutely believe there are coping mechanisms and strategies people can use to reduce anxiety, find peace, and lead happy lives!
Some strategies can be as simple as doing deep-breathing exercises to center yourself when you feel anxious. Other strategies can involve tackling self-limiting beliefs, developing a positive mindset, seeking out therapy, and more.
No matter what the case, having support is so important to people experiencing anxiety. It feels encouraging to have loved ones who care about your journey, seek to understand you, and support you through the highs and lows.
Support can encourage people with anxiety to keep going in their efforts to manage anxiety. And that consistency and practice will make a difference.
The more support and understanding people with anxiety have, the closer they’ll be to finding inner peace.
Anxiety Is a Battle We Can Fight Together
It all adds up to this: anxiety is very real, and it can be tough to combat. But those experiencing anxiety need not be defined by it.
I know so many people who experience anxiety, all of whom are strong, loving, capable individuals. And they’ve far enriched the lives of those around them.
But, like all of us in our own ways, they have a battle to fight.
So: will you stand by them?
My guess is you will. We will. And by standing together, we will win the fight.