There are loads of perks to having an anxious friend. Sure, we tend to overthink things. We worry about every possible thing that could go wrong in every single situation. And sometimes, we don’t even show up. Soz.
But we’re awesome in other ways. We’ll know exactly what bus to take to the party – and where to get off. We notice annoying things (like that damn dripping tap) way before you do. And when we do show up, we’ll come armed with an arsenal of essentials: insect repellent, umbrellas and raincoats, spare cash, map and compass, emergency beacon. Yes, even for drinks in the park.
We worry a lot. But we also care. A lot. And in my online community Worry Warrior, we try to laugh a little at our neuroses. To be kind to our anxiety. And to make friends with our mind.
To help you do just that, here are 5 things that we worriers (warriors) loathe…but try really, really hard to tolerate. While we all have different anxiety triggers and traits, maybe you’ll be able to relate to a few of them.
1 Noise of any kind
I live on a high street above a shop. As soon as I open the door, I’m hit with a tsunami of street sounds and stimulation. Five different buses stop out front. There are kids screaming, lorries reversing, engines roaring…it’s chaos. And it takes a lot of inner strength to brace it and get on with my day.
Because when you’re anxious, the world can be an overwhelmingly loud and hectic place. And the more we focus on the mayhem, the madder we get. Soon, it feels as though the medley of sounds is reverberating deep into our bones. Into our soul.
So if you’re nattering away about a cute kitten, and your friend suddenly screams, “IT’S ALL TOO MUCH!”, please don’t blame yourself. Or the kitten. She’s simply imploded and needs you to get her to a quiet space, stat.
Warrior tip: Get out of the city as much as possible. Nature is soothing to the anxious soul, and allows your mind to untwist away from stimulation. Also consider adding earplugs to your anxiety kit to block out night noise.
2 Shopping malls
There’s really no surprise shopping malls are rated as a top panic attack trigger. What’s worse than thousands of strangers crammed into a windowless, fluorescent-lit torture chamber with Mariah Carey covers played on loop?
Warrior tip: Two words: online shopping. You can browse for bargains and get groceries from your bed, and simply shuffle to the door in your PJs to greet the delivery guy.
3 Plans without a plan
Me: “Are we still meeting up?”
Friend: “Yep, I’ll be free all day.”
Me: “OK…so 12pm at the café?”
Friend: “Could do. Or later. Whenever you like.”
Me: “2pm then?”
Friend: “I think that will work…I’ll let you know.”
Please. For the love of God. Make a plan so we know exactly when and where we need to be! And what we should wear. And who else will be there. And when we can go back home and hide.
Sure, we can be spontaneous. But we’re a whole lot happier when we can prepare. It takes a TONNE of energy to psych ourselves up. And if you leave us hanging, or ask us to make all the decisions…well, then we’ll probably cancel on you last minute. Again, soz.
Warrior tip: Send your friends this post, or let them know why you need more concrete plans. One of my mates texts: “I’ll pick you up at 9am. Wear hiking boots and a hat. We’re going to the gorge. Home by 7pm.” Oh how I love her.
4 Little annoyances
Dripping taps. Draughty doors. Loud air conditioners. Some people barely notice life’s little annoyances. But when you’re anxious, they’re amplified. A tapping foot becomes a jackhammer. A pen click is an air horn.
And if you have an anxious friend, be thankful. Because they’ll have jumped up and fixed the problem before you even knew there was one.
Warrior tip: Fix whatever’s bugging you. Can’t? Then sit quietly with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Let the surrounding sounds merge and drift by, like clouds across the sky.
5 “Don’t worry.”
Or “stop crying”. Or “try not to think about it.” Whenever these words are said, an anxious fairy dies. And an anxious person becomes even more flustered! We know the intention is to help us relax, but it actually does the opposite. We start worrying that we’re annoying you by being worried, which only makes us more worried, and dims our chance of not worrying at all.
Here are some more helpful things to say:
- I understand you’re feeling anxious…
- What you’re feeling is normal.
- How can I support you?
- I’m here for you.
- What’s one thing we can do right now to change this situation?
Warrior tip: Again, share this post with your loved ones. And teach them how they can best support you.
Katherine Rose Tate is a freelance health writer and anxiety blogger. Her online community Worry Warrior is a safe, supportive space for making friends with your mind.