"I'm feeling anxious today, please leave me alone"

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Last week, we discussed how anxiety sufferers should respond to cliche statements that, unfortunately, discredit the severity of their pain. This week, we’re turning the tables, thanks to David Crawford, who wrote in asking:

“I am fortunate to not suffer from anxiety or any other mental health conditions, so I would find it useful to know the best way to respond when someone says, “I’m feeling anxious today, please ease off me for a while.”

I’m happy to answer your questions when I can (keep sending ‘em in) but I thought I’d let (the other) David take this one on:

Well, the most obvious is to comply with the request. The worst response would be to ask why, as this is likely to elevate the person’s feelings of anxiety.

It’s important to keep in mind that feeling anxious is a completely normal response to stimulus. We shouldn’t overlook the biological presentation of it. From sweaty palms and a tight chest to a full on magnitude 9.5 panic-attack -- it’s all our fight, freeze, and flight system of survival being activated.

But context is crucial as well. Look at what your loved one is going through -- money troubles, feeling lonely in a new country, stress from their fuckwit of a boss -- one or all of these combined could be the cause(s). Take a step back and reflect so you can begin to understand their pain.

Try saying, “Thanks for letting me know, I respect that. If you want to talk about it later, I’ll be here to listen.”

Listen, accept, respect. “Listen” being the important word here. Avoid the word “why” and, above all, avoid trying to actively fix the problem -- because you can’t.

We all need to do a better job at learning about anxiety, even if we can’t feel it ourselves. You can’t see it, like a broken leg, but the pain is very real.

So that’s it folks, the next time you hear the words, “I’m feeling anxious, leave me alone”  respect their wishes and give them space. Anxious feelings (from my own experience) subside after a few hours and before long I’m back to my normal self.

Joe Pack