As we wrap up this series, we are beginning to see the whole picture. We are learning to prioritize connection by seeking to be present, seeing people, listening intently, and encouraging others. We also saw what it looks like to prioritize healing. This article will take a closer look at encouraging those living with anxiety.
Ingredients For Connection
Living with anxiety without relief will take its toll on anyone. When someone feels no one understands, it is natural to isolate oneself from other people. This isolation often leads to feelings of despair, hopelessness, and depression. Regardless of the situation, it is easy to begin to believe lies, get discouraged, and lose motivation.
Where To Begin
As friends or family of someone living with anxiety, it is hard to know how to help or where to start. Without prior experience, mistakes will happen when trying to help a loved one. These mistakes can cause the best of us to feel like giving up. Before long, walls go up, and reaching out becomes increasingly tricky.
Start With A Clean Slate
If dealing with mental illness is new, mistakes are bound to happen. Give yourself some grace. Begin by humbly asking the other person for forgiveness. Wipe the slate clean and begin again. Know that you have not blown it; your friend needs you.
Understanding Their Needs
Understanding another person’s needs is often a great place to start when trying to provide support. One of the best ways to learn about someone’s needs comes by being present, seeing people, and listening intently. Clarity comes from selflessly showing up for the other person. It takes time and sacrifice but eventually, their needs will reveal themselves. While I cannot speak for everyone in all situations, I hope to give some insight based on my experience.
3 Reasons People Need Encouragement
- They believe lies
- Repetitive Discouragement
- Low Motivation
One of the primary needs for someone with anxiety is to identify and break down the lies holding them captive. Isolation is a convenient place for lies to grow and spiral out of control. Speaking words of encouragement can be just what people need to help them face the lies. It might be speaking Biblical truth over someone that can be just what they need.
So now that we understand the importance of felt safety and the role of connection let us dive into some of the common lies. Again, living in isolation causes people to believe we are the only ones struggling with these feelings. After repeated attempts to improve, it is common to feel things will always be this way. Negative interactions with others can lead a person to believe no one understands.
- We are the only ones struggling
- We will always be this way
- No one understands
Personally, one of the most significant sources of depression came from repetitive feelings of discouragement. Sometimes life is rough, and we experience traumatic events. Other times, areas of our lives fail to progress according to our expectations, leaving us with feelings of hopelessness. Speaking positive words of affirmation can bring life to a seemingly hopeless situation.
Sources of Discouragement:
- Lack of progress
The more prolonged the anxiety, the higher the chances your friend will lose their motivation. They likely have been believing lies and experiencing discouragement for a while now. Repetitive attempts with limited results can quickly drag a person down. This is where a friend or family member can speak into a situation.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
Proverbs 12:25 NIV
We lose motivation when:
- We try to improve and fail, leading us to believe more lies.
- We go to a counselor after counselor without finding a good fit, causing us to believe we’ll never find someone who can help us.
Keep It Simple
As a friend or family member, I can see how all of this might be a little much. So here’s what I want you to do. Pick one area for your loved one; maybe believing a lie. Send them an encouraging photo from Instagram. Create a verse image on YouVersion. If you want to be old school, send them a handwritten card. They need you to speak truth into their life. Do this once per week for four weeks.
As you are doing this, make notes in your journal. If your friend responds, journal the response. Pray over the message you sent via Instagram, text, or card. Journal the prayers for your friend. Wait and watch, expecting God to honor your faithfulness.
Keep Showing Up
In the following month, try a different area or change your methods. Mix it up! If you’ve been sending IG images, try sending a card. Instead of speaking truth over lies, do a random act to encourage the other person. Bring them their favorite treat. Keep journaling the results, prayers, etc. The point is to keep showing up.
As you set out to support your friend, remember they have believed lies, felt discouraged, and have been low on motivation for a while. Don’t be surprised if the results are not immediate. At the same time, realize that this individual may not show emotion in an obvious way. Keep at it. If you do not see results, change your approach. Please don’t give up on them! They need you!
*Photo by Mikechie Esparagoza from Pexels