Driving into work is when I do a lot of my deepest thinking. The other day, I got to thinking about all the brave women I have met over the years on Twitter, particularly through the #ppdchat hosted by Lauren Hale every Monday. What’s so great about the #ppdchat Army (as we call ourselves) is that anyone can reach out at any time—even in the middle of the night—by tweeting with the #ppdchat hashtag and be instantly comforted, talked down from the ledge (both metaphorically and even literally), and reminded that feeling anxious or depressed isn’t forever. Because the #ppdchat support spans multiple continents and two social media sites, someone is almost always around to help.

Thinking even more deeply about this, however, I realized that I see the same phrases used over and over: “Big hugs,” “Sending you strength,” and so on. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say those phrases. They’re being said over and over because they usually work. We tend to repeat the things that have worked for us to hear in the past. But, for me anyway, virtual hugs only go so far. Sometimes I find myself tweeting “Big hugs” and I feel like those words aren’t good enough, that more powerful words are needed. Sometimes we need to pull out the big guns.

With that in mind, I reached out on Facebook to the #ppdchat Army and other women who have had anxiety with this question:

What do YOU want to hear when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack?

The following awesome responses may be helpful to you when you’re trying to find those big guns:

  • This is temporary. Say over and over “I can do this. It’s just a moment.”
  • For me, in the moment of a panic attack/anxiety attack, I need someone to assure me that it WILL end. They can’t last forever, and most panic attacks are only at a high for a short amount of time. I need to be reminded that I won’t stop breathing, that my body does know what to do and I will not just die.
  • My husband always reminds me that if it gets really bad I can always take an anti-anxiety med. I don’t take them often so I tend to forget its an option and I always feel better knowing it’s there if I really need it. Also just having someone to talk to, text or tweet or whatever helps to distract me. I think we have a tendency to not always reach out in the midst of an attack, but it really does help.
  • The best thing someone can say to me when I am in the midst of anxiety is that my fears and worries are valid. That they are understandable. Then after that, I love to hear that they are there for me no matter what happens with whatever I am having anxiety about. That they will come in and help.
  • Last night my husband put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I hear you.”. It was exactly what I needed.
  • I need to be reminded to take deep breaths. When I am in the midst of an anxiety attack, my breathing gets so shallow. I cannot even articulate how I am feeling. By reminding myself to breathe, I can start to reach out and ask for help.

There you have it. Next time you’re at a loss for words to comfort or help your friend having an anxiety attack, try reminding her to breathe, or that you’re there for her no matter what. And don’t forget to suggest or try some of the tips offered here.

What have YOU found to be helpful to say or hear when you’re fighting off those anxious demons?

 

 

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16 Comments

  1. I often feel the same about virtual hugs…and even real ones. I tweet those words too but really, in the midst an anxiety attack, I don’t want to be touched. All I need is someone to remind me i’m not alone. Sometimes that’s simply my husband sitting silently in the room with me. Often it is the awesome PPDarmy letting me know they’re listening. To breathe- that’s my number one I think though. Crazy to think we sometimes need to be reminded to do something so natural buy those words have helped me too many times to count!
    Sandy recently posted..The Time I can Never Get Back

  2. When I was going through the worst of the ppa/ppocd, I remember people around me telling me to try to get over it, take a walk, try not to think about it. At the time, they didn’t know that those words actually made it worse. It made me feel as if something was “wrong” with me because I couldn’t just shake it off.

    Like you, I needed that reminder that it wouldn’t last forever and one of the most comforting things someone can say to me is “I get it” or “I have been there too”. To know that I wasn’t alone was huge for me :)
    Andrea recently posted..What I wish my doctor told me

  3. What a fantastic post! When someone near me is feeling anxious, I tend to freeze, and feel that whatever I say will be the totally wrong thing. This is great and so constructive!

  4. These are wonderful tips.
    I’m going through mega anxiety right now. Everyone keeps telling me to relax. Duh…if I could I would.
    Kimberly recently posted..Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturday

    • Kim, when someone tells me to “relax” or “chill out,” it makes my blood boil. I think someone (hint, hint) needs to do a post on what NOT to say to someone having anxiety. Wanna guest post here??

  5. I am one of those who has had my hand held and myself literally talked off the ledge by the army.

    These are great suggestions. Esp the reminder that I have meds when I need them or that it won’t last forever, though it sure feels like it and sometimes the overwhelming anxiety does go on and on but you are right the peak comes and goes in waves, I just have to ride out each one.
    Charity recently posted..I have Returned 401-410

  6. I always need to hear “It will be okay.” Great post!
    Raine recently posted..Bullies and Bullying

  7. Thank you for your post. I suffer from anxiety and totally related to everything you share. Your husband sounds like the dream so supportive. I might actually repost some of this on my blog if I had your permission. The validation, occasional meds and a reminder that it is temporary and you can do it really help. Brilliant.
    I’ve found also that finding a way to make one decision even small like eating dinner can help feel in control.
    Thanks again. Most importantly we need to educate and remove the stigma of mental illness including anxiety and panic attacks.
    Rachel Wagner recently posted..Stress

  8. Pingback: Things to Help and Hurt an Anxiety Attack « Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

  9. Thanks for these. One thing that helps me and helps my kiddos is to be held. Even just a hand on my back and then say “let’s breathe together”. Then , “look you are doing it”. Bc man it can feel like it wont end and you wont amake it but of course that s not the truth.

  10. Thank you SO much for this! My sister called in the midst of an anxiety attack and I was at such a loss. I did a search, this came up and I worked it all in…she immediately began to calm down. Thank you!

  11. OMG, my little sister has anxiety attacts and often i really don’t know what to say. So i freeze up because she freaks me out with all her questions. She wants me to respond with the right thing to say, but i never know what to say. Now i know. Thank You so much you have no idea how much this means to me. God bless You!

  12. Taryn Pethtel

    In moderation, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, anxiety can help you stay alert and focused, spur you to action, and motivate you to solve problems. But when anxiety is constant or overwhelming, when it interferes with your relationships and activities, it stops being functional—that’s when you’ve crossed the line from normal, productive anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders.”*”-

    Latest blog post on our very own website
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    • I suppose you are right but I think the post is speaking of clinical anxiety. I’ve never felt it was that productive for me. Stress can be oddly productive but anxiety not so much but I suppose we are talking about nuances of definitions. To know what to say to someone experiencing a true attack is so helpful (even as a fellow sufferer sometimes I say the wrong thing!).

  13. Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some people have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.’^`*

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  14. Pingback: Anxiety Attack Children | Panic IVF

  15. I’ve always found “What can I do to help you?” extremely helpful. Usually my response is “I don’t know,” or “Just kind of sit there and be nice to me and keep me distracted,” but just asking makes me feel better because you’re trying. I know a lot of times when I’m panicking people eye me up like deer in the headlights because they don’t know what to do, but no one ever thinks to just ask. I find it helpful for everybody – the person who’s panicking, and the person who’s panicking because you’re panicking and they don’t know how to make you stop!

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