“Relax” and 5 Other Phrases Not to Say to an Anxious Person

September 22, 2020

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Written By : Aisha R. Shabazz, LCSW

Relax. Relax. Relax.

Do you feel more relaxed? Hmm, I wonder why. News Flash – Telling someone to relax does not evoke relaxation. There are many factors that can contribute to someone feeling at ease and shouting commands like you’re speaking to Alexa or Siri, is not going to cut it. Here’s a list of commands that I’ve heard time and time again and if I had one piece of advice to give this is it! Saying the following is not helpful and in some cases it can make matters worse. 

It worked out the last time.

It’s possible that your friend is in the same situation they were in the last time and it’s possible that it all “worked out”, however when someone is cycling through their what-if list, they are cycling through the future. The future is where anxiety lives and your friend is time-traveling through all the possibilities of what could be.

“Last time” happened in the past and currently there’s no room for them to consider what happened. What’s more helpful for someone experiencing anxiety is to bring them to the present moment. The present moment is where they have the control to potentially impact the future that they are concerned about. 

You’ll be fine.

Anxiety is the instinctive behavioral, physiological, and neurochemical response to danger. If you were being chased by a bear and someone shouted “You’ll be fine!” Is that the most helpful piece of advice in the moment? NOPE. Dismissing what they are currently going through is not helpful. 

What’s wrong now?

This statement can communicate to your loved one that their experience of anxiety is bothering you. Seeing a loved one in distress can be overwhelming but let’s shift your perspective. Instead of seeing your loved one as being the problem shift to consider that the way they experience anxiety is problematic.

Remember anxiety is an instinct, it’s problematic when we respond to a danger that is not there. Try brainstorming with them about how to resolve their concern in a more productive way. Encourage them to consider what they can do now, to alleviate their worry.

See, you did all that worrying for nothing.

Worrying is like a rocking chair. Even if it’s not taking you anywhere, it gives you something to do. People worry for different reasons, so instead of dismissing their feelings, actively listen to what they are sharing with you.

If listening starts to become overwhelming for you, encourage them to receive support from a therapist or support group that can help them move beyond their worry cycle. You care about them, so recognizing your limits with what you can and cannot off them in their time of need is more beneficial for you, them, and your relationship. 

Maybe you should try yoga.

There are so many different strategies and coping skills that are talked about to help manage feelings of anxiety – however, when someone is in the depths of feeling anxious, spontaneously striking a yoga pose is not going to cut it. When we attempt to prescribe self-care techniques and cookie cutter coping strategies onto those experiencing anxiety, it can have an adverse reaction to how they feel about themselves, especially if it doesn’t work.

As a yoga teacher and practitioner of meditation, there are intricacies to these ancient practices that when studied and applied safely with a trauma-informed teacher, the result of the practice can lead some to feel anxiety relief.

Overall, it’s important to explore the endless possibilities of what could help open someone up to feeling more ease and relieved of the burden of anxiety. 

Help is On the Way

If you know someone who is struggling to manage their feelings of anxiety, I’d like to encourage you to consider signing up for my NEW GROUP. Together, we can discuss how you can help support your loved one release the burden of anxiety and live their life with a bit more ease.

Disclaimer: This mental health blog is for informational purposes and is intended to help destigmatize mental health. It is strongly discouraged to use the information contained in this blog in a coercive manner. This information is not intended to diagnose or serve as a substitute for treatment from a licensed mental health professional. 

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