It can be confusing to watch a friend or sibling struggle with anxiety. Sometimes, if they share their worries, you might start to feel anxious, too. Even if you want to help, it’s not always easy to know how. “What should I say?” “How do I know what to do?”
While there’s not always an easy answer, there is a key step you should take before you try to help a friend with anxiety. And it might surprise you.
If I’m Feeling Overwhelmed, How Can I Help Them? Check on Yourself First
High schoolers have to juggle a lot, so pause and check in with yourself first. There are two reasons (at least!) why this is a crucial step.
One, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re feeling stressed, you run the risk of overextending yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I worried a lot, too? Am I feeling crankier than usual? Am I hiding in my room more than I used to?” If so, these might be signs that you need to amp up your support system before offering help to others.
Two, we all learn from other people’s behavior. It’s called mirror neurons, look it up! When you practice caring for yourself, your friend might take your cue and do it, too. If you aren’t quite sure how to do this, here are some great ways to get started:
- Schedule in some fun. Okay, okay, this is easier said than done. But hear us out. These activities don’t have to be fancy. Doing a lot of smaller things to boost your mood can have as much impact as one or two bigger activities. Budget at least 30-60 minutes of time to do little things that make you happy. For instance, spend an hour outside, watch your favorite show, read a new book, organize your closet, meet up with a friend, or try a new restaurant.
- If you want to know the quickest way to be an M.E.S.S., don’t move, don’t pay attention to what you eat, don’t get enough sleep, and don’t take space away from screens/social media. (See what we did there?). To be the friend (and person!) you want to be, it’s essential to get enough sleep, eat in a balanced way, move your body and take breaks from screens.
- Set healthy boundaries. You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm. When someone you care about is having a hard time, you might want to drop everything and help. But often, that’s not realistic or possible. Rather than feeling guilty, know that healthy boundaries are not only okay, they’re essential for keeping your relationship strong and supportive.
We hope you understand why helping yourself is a key first step in helping your friend. Now that you have that part down, you’re ready to help your friend.
Want to learn more? Read How Can I Create a Safe Space for My Friend?
Lumate has expert therapists who specialize in working with teens and young adults. We are currently accepting patients (12-25) in FL, NY, NJ, CT, PA, and CA who may be struggling with anxiety and OCD. Schedule an appointment today.