NovelSisters

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Dealing with Anxiety

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I have heard a lot about anxiety in my lifetime. People who have severe anxiety share their suggestions of ways to deal with it. There are countless books, articles and suggestions out there if you want help. But, well, I feel like I have a bit of a unique perspective, so I thought I’d share too. I can get anxious just like anyone. I’ve been nervous with speaking in front of a crowd, or being alone. I have my own worries and fears. But I don’t think it was ever serious. I never took medication, got counseling or anything like that. I was just a normal kid with normal problems. However, my sister went through and continues to deal with severe anxiety and panic attacks. Most of the advice out there is for people dealing with anxiety for themselves. But there isn’t as much advice for what to do if your friend, or relative, is struggling. What is actually helpful? And what just makes it worse? We all know good intentions don’t mean it’s what will actually help. So here are a few things I’ve learned.

5 Tips on Helping Someone with Anxiety

1. Don’t tell them what to do
Just because you read it in a book, doesn’t mean it will help. This goes for my own advice too. I may give a suggestion that was helpful in my sister’s situation, but wouldn’t help someone else. Don’t assume you understand someone else’s problem or can solve it for them. Often times they don’t want to hear any advice on what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Unless they ask, don’t tell them what to do.

2. Listen
One of the hardest parts of dealing with any problem, is feeling alone, like no one understands you. If you want to be a good friend, listen to what your friend says and believe them. There were so many times that my sister complained about her stomach hurting that many people thought she was making it up, or it was all in her head. But I believed her and told her I believed her. And knowing that at least one person doesn’t think you’re crazy can be such an encouragement.

3. Be present
This may be hard, especially if you live far away or are really busy, but it really shows you care. For my sister, I will give her a hug to show her I’m there with her (since I’m already around her a lot). Some people don’t like physical contact. But at least for my sister, giving her a hug, even one that lasts for a really long time, can help her calm down. It may look awkward to someone else who is watching, but I don’t care. I want my sister to know that I care for her when she’s hurting or scared, so I gave her a hug, or put my arm around her while we sit. I don’t have to say anything, just be there with her. Even if you don’t give hugs, find ways to be physically present with your friend. Go to their house if they can’t get out. Make the effort to be with them. And if you live too far away, maybe have a Skype chat.

4. Take away the pressure by being patient and letting go of expectations
We all feel pressure to do things, to live up to other’s expectations. These expectations can cause anxiety for anyone, and make things worse for someone who already deals with it constantly. Letting them know that they won’t disappoint you if they can’t come to the event, leave the house, or do the thing you wanted to do together can really relieve the anxiety. Countless times I’ve told my sister, “You don’t have to go. It’s not the end of the world.” Or “If we do this, it’ll be fun and if we don’t it’s okay. I’m fine either way.” I let her make the decision to do something if she’s ready to do it. And if she’s not, I don’t get upset. (This can be hard to do, and I don’t always do the best at it, but when I am patient, she does so much better)

5. Pray
This has been the biggest help for my sister. When she starts getting anxious she’ll ask me to pray. And I do, whether for her stomach to stop hurting or for God to give her peace. Sometimes I start praying and end up thanking God for her and how much He loves her and me. It helps me and my sister remember that even when we can’t do anything about the situation, He can.

 

So there’s my 5 tips. I hope they are helpful for you.

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Thankful for Hardships

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In case you didn’t know, I’m doing several posts this month about being grateful or thankful or whatever you want to call it, in honor of Thanksgiving. I’ve already talked about family and friends, and I think that’s the sort of thing that comes to most people’s minds when they are trying to be thankful. But I’ve also been relearning recently that as a Christian I should be thankful for the hard things too.

I started reading in James this morning and he starts off his letter telling Christians to be joyful in hardships because it produces perseverance. And yesterday my Mom got up in front of my church, along with several other members, and thanked God for the difficulties our family has faced and how it’s grown her spiritually. Even my Dad thanked God for problems and how they force us to rely on Him. I also just finished reading Christy, a wonderful book by Catherine Marshall. I really loved one of the characters, Ms. Alice, and how she lived out her faith. Even with all of the baggage in her life, she was able to use it to become more able to help those around her. Reading about her made me desire to mature in Christ and be able to do the same kind of things.

But unfortunately, recently I’ve found myself complaining about the busyness and craziness of my life. I don’t want to do that, so this is one way I’m trying to live out being thankful, even for the hard stuff.

So here are a few hard things, that I’m thankful for:

1. I’m thankful that when I was a kid, I was left out, excluded, and didn’t have many friends.

That experience affected me, and it’s helped me love others, especially the people around me who are excluded now. If I had never experienced that hurt, I wouldn’t care for others that feel it too. It also helps me to appreciate all of the friends I have now.

2. I’m thankful that my sister has gone through and still deals with anxiety and panic attacks.

I’ll be honest, I prayed for it to go away, for my sister to be healed, for my family to not have to deal with it anymore. And I still hope for the day that it will all be gone. But I’ve gotten to see over the years how this difficulty has shaped me, my sister, and my family. We’ve had to grow in forgiveness and understanding. I’ve had to grow in patience, sympathy, and giving up what I want. It hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s the one God gave my family, and He has brought good out of it.

3. I’m thankful that I’ve never had a serious romantic relationship.

This is a struggle I’ve had off and on for a long time, most girls do. I have wanted to find a guy, get married, and start a family. And I’ve waited, and waited. I never thought I’d be in my mid-twenties and still not be married. But it has allowed me to have time for other things that I love. A lot of the couples I see around me spend so much time on that one relationship, and they need to, but it means they can’t spend as much time with other people. I’ve seen God use this extra time in my life to give me the freedom to go on mission trips, serve in ministry, and disciple other ladies in the faith. And throughout this time of waiting, God has shown me that what brings true joy is Himself, and not the fulfillment of my desires.

4. I’m thankful for my fear of public speaking.

I’ve never liked talking to groups of people, and for a long time I’ve been the shy girl in the corner that doesn’t talk. So public speaking has always been difficult for me. And it still is, I don’t like the spotlight on me. But through this weakness, I’ve seen God’s strength. He has put me in situation after situation where I need to speak in front of groups, give presentations, teach lessons, and… well speak publicly. It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and I still struggle with what to say. But this has forced me to rely on God each time. I learned early on that when I trusted God with my fear and asked for His help, He provided. And so I still go to Him. Each time speaking publicly arises, I have to trust Him all over again. And this learning to place trust in God, instead of my own talents, is a special gift I wouldn’t trade.

So, what are a few things you are thankful for?

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