Anxiety attacks can be overwhelming and frightening experiences, both for the person going through them and for those witnessing it, especially when it's a close friend. If you have a friend experiencing an anxiety attack, your support and understanding can make a significant difference in helping them cope and recover. In this blog post, we will discuss practical steps you can take to assist and comfort your friend during their time of need.
1. Stay Calm
Your first instinct might be to panic or become anxious yourself when you see your friend struggling, but it's crucial to remain calm. Your calm presence can help your friend feel more secure and less alone during their anxiety attack.
2. Find a Quiet and Safe Space
If possible, guide your friend to a quiet, comfortable, and safe place. Reduce external stimuli like noise and bright lights, which can exacerbate anxiety.
3. Encourage Deep Breathing
Anxiety attacks often lead to shallow breathing, which can make the symptoms worse. Encourage your friend to take slow, deep breaths. You can use the "4-7-8" technique: Inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. This helps regulate their breathing and calm their nervous system.
4. Offer Reassurance
Let your friend know that you are there for them and that they are not alone. Use comforting and reassuring words like, "I'm here with you," "You're safe," or "I care about you." Remind them that anxiety attacks are temporary and that they will pass.
5. Avoid Judgment
Avoid saying things like "just relax" or "snap out of it." Anxiety is not a choice, and your friend cannot simply will it away. Be patient and understanding, and refrain from any form of judgment.
6. Use Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques can help your friend reconnect with the present moment. You can suggest simple exercises like asking them to describe five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. This technique helps divert their focus away from the anxiety.
7. Offer Water and Medication (if applicable)
If your friend has medication prescribed for their anxiety attacks, ask if they would like to take it. Offer them a glass of water to help swallow the medication and stay hydrated.
8. Respect Their Space
While your presence and support are essential, some individuals prefer solitude during an anxiety attack. If your friend asks for space, respect their wishes but reassure them that you are nearby if they need you.
9. Suggest Professional Help
If your friend experiences anxiety attacks frequently, encourage them to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. Offer to assist them in finding a mental health professional or accompany them to their first appointment if they're comfortable with that. We at Hibiscus Counselling provide therapy and other services for mental health, you can reach out here.
10. Follow Up and Offer Ongoing Support
After the anxiety attack has passed, follow up with your friend to check on their well-being. Let them know that you're available to talk or lend support whenever they need it. Building a long-term support system can be invaluable for someone dealing with anxiety.
Supporting a friend through an anxiety attack is an act of kindness and compassion. Your presence, reassurance, and understanding can make a significant difference in helping them manage their anxiety. Remember that you are not expected to be a substitute for professional help but rather a source of comfort and encouragement. By following these steps, you can be a pillar of support during your friend's challenging moments and contribute to their overall well-being.