How to Help a Friend Through an Anxiety Attack

William Mashburn

wmashburn@lc.edu

 

 Anxiety is something many people struggle with. The cause of one’s anxiety can vary on multiple things. Some people get anxiety over little things, other people get it over much larger things. The one thing about anxiety is sometimes it is very difficult to get over or to handle it all alone. If you are like me, you have had many friends and family members who have anxiety attacks frequently, and try your hardest to be there for them. But what happens whenever you have a friend who you cannot physically be with? How does one help them through the attack? Over the phone, through text or another way?

I recently learned of an easy way to try and help your friends or family with anxiety if you are not able to be there physically with them. It is called the five through one method. The process involves asking these questions in order: 

  1. Ask them to list five things they can see. The size of the objects do not matter, what they see does not matter. This can be a blanket, clothes, toys, another person, anything. 
  2. Next is four things they can touch. Again, this can be anything. Most of the time it is something within reach of where they are currently sitting. If they are out in public, this can be something as simple as their phone, or a pen, pencil or anything like that.
  3.  Next is three things they can hear. This one should not need much explanation. A car, fish tank, their own breaths, food being cooked, etc. 
  4. Fourth is two things they can smell. Smells are a good way to keep their mind focused on other things. Food, fresh cut grass, their hair, blankets, anything would work. If they say they do not smell anything, have them turn on some oils, or open a window. 
  5. Last but not least, one thing they taste. If they cannot taste anything have them grab a snack or something along those lines.

This whole process can take as long or as short as it does. Each person is different, and this method may not help every person. As someone who has helped people with anxiety and frequently helps my friends out, learning new ways to help is essential. I highly encourage everyone to try this next time a friend or relative is in need. One thing to keep in mind is always think about what to say next, and how to respond to each question. Never rush an answer because you are panicking that you are not helping. Sometimes just listening is all that they need.

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