I cannot imagine looking onward as a friend or family member struggles with fear and anxiety. I know what it is like to be the one falling apart on the inside. I also know what it is like to watch a loved one with a debilitating condition, so I imagine there are some similarities. Drawing on these experiences, I believe I can add value to this important conversation.
The LEAP Framework
- Love(Matthew 22:37-39 NLT) those experiencing challenges surrounding mental health
- Equip and educate
- Advocate for mental well-being
- Provide a safe place
In a prior article, What Is A Mental Health Advocate, I introduced the LEAP framework and my why behind being a mental health advocate. The LEAP Framework is an acronym which encapsulates how I serve my audience. My audience being individuals experiencing challenges with mental health, but also the friends and family supporting those individuals.
The first and perhaps the most important part of the LEAP Framework is Love. Love is behind everything I do and I believe should be your motivator as well. You may have no intentions of advocating for mental health beyond that of your loved one and that’s alright. If you have a friend or family member who struggles with anxiety, I have no doubt you love them. Most likely you are reading this because you want to help others.
What I would venture to say is that most of this particular group has not stopped to ask, “What is the best way I can love them?”
I believe this very question makes a big difference in how we choose to go about things.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT
Creating A Safe Place
This may sound obvious, but I want to reiterate how important it is to love and value the individual over any behavior or condition. Much like Jesus, we must choose to love people where they are, in the midst of the struggle and in the middle of their mess. We choose to love them by valuing their unique condition, path, and perspective.
We all deal with fear and anxiety on some level and no two journeys are the same. For some, fear and anxiety presents significant challenges, but the experience is a seasonal one. For others, fear and anxiety has become part of their daily existence. We must commit to value the unique conditions we each experience.
It happens as we are going about our lives, but does not stick around indefinitely. This type of fear is definitely daunting, it interferes with our lives, but goes away in time. Anxiety of this type can be brought on by events, circumstances or many things at once.
How can we best love someone with seasonal anxiety?
...it depends. If this is the first time your loved one is experiencing anxiety, you might not know if their anxiety is seasonal or if their anxiety will become chronic. If you have been around long enough to know your friend has seasonal anxiety, you will learn how to best love and serve them through this tough time.
Regardless it is important for them to know:
- You are here for the long haul. You are not going anywhere.
- You love them anxiety and all.
- Be optimistic, but not dismissive of their feelings.
Long-term aka Chronic Anxiety
No matter what you do it never seems to leave for long. Anxiety of this type is what many may deem the clinical type. Some have had this type since they were children while for others it might have come later in life. While different than its seasonal relative, they share some similarities. One of the challenges with chronic anxiety lies in our expectations.
How can we best love someone with chronic anxiety?
- Remain optimistic believing that God can heal them, but accept the fact that God may choose not to. They need to know you love them regardless of their condition.
- Be optimistic, but not dismissive of their feelings.
- Recovery may mean learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way. Be careful to adjust your expectations.
Sometimes people struggling with fear or anxiety recover much like humans recover from a cold. Other times these conditions seem to linger on. Some people might find healing quickly while others experience chronic anxiety. Everyone walks along their own path and choosing to love the individual means we respect each unique path.
One of the first things we must realize is that everyone looks at life through their personal lens. This lens comes about from a combination of our thoughts, experiences, upbringing, the people around us, and our environment. Healthy or unhealthy, we must choose to respect each other’s perspective.
Changing Worldview Tips
- Your friend’s perspective maybe completely inaccurate or unhealthy, but this is not the time to prove you are right. Choose to love them no matter their current worldview.
- Addressing an unhealthy worldview is best left to a professional counselor or pastor at a church. This is primarily due to the time commitment needed, but also the complexity of issues that could unfold.
- Unhealthy thought patterns were not formed in one day and likewise will take time to resolve. You may be able to help your friend with parts of the conversation, but a counselor should oversee the process.
Any treatment that stands to help will need to consider the individual’s unique condition, path, and worldview.
- Treating the condition will involve a lot of trial and error to see what works or what does not. One size does not fit all when it comes to treating anxiety. Resist the urge to oversimplify anxiety, just because something worked for your cousin’s friend does not mean it will work for everyone. ;)
- We all hope and pray our loved one gets better quickly, but what if they don’t? We must commit to love them even when it seems they may never improve.