Reminding Someone with Anxiety that they are Never Alone

Reminding Someone with Anxiety that they are Never Alone

"How do I remind my daughter that I love her? She's having such a hard time. I'm so worried about her...."

It is truly difficult to watch someone you love suffer. I'm not a practitioner of any kind - I'm not a doctor, not a therapist, not any sort of health care provider. But - I am a pastor, and a mother of a child who has a mental health disorder, and someone with anxiety myself. In my almost two decades of being a hospital chaplain, I have very rarely encountered another person who is not in agony watching the person they love suffer. Very few people would not immediately trade places with their loved one when that person is in pain - whether physical or emotional.

And that is one of the great challenges of anxiety. Anxiety is a jerk. I want to use more colorful language, but I will spare you. Anxiety is a mean little brat in your mind that says nothing you do matters, even though everything around you is important. It all matters and you are getting it completely wrong and nobody likes you. You're the worst, and you can't do anything right, and you are going to live in this hell forever. Everyone with anxiety is different, but for me, all these mean thoughts cause me to take on too much, wear myself out, drive myself into the ground. It's the feeling of constantly expending energy without ever achieving anything. EVERYTHING MATTERS, and I'm doing all of it wrong. 

So how do I break through to someone who is in this anxiety poo-tornado? That's hard to say. Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs, different ways they communicate, and different ways of receiving love when they are centered and when they are not centered. What I have learned through my chaplaincy training and through experience is that everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to know that they matter. And listening non-anxiously to someone share how they are feeling without interrupting them, correcting them, or trying to fix it for them is helpful 99.9% of the time. Saying "Everything happens for a reason" rarely makes anyone feel better, regardless of what you intended by saying it. But, sitting next to someone while they vent and cry - that does help. Saying, "Wow. That sounds really hard. I don't know what to say. I'm so sorry, and I love you. Would a hug be helpful?" Those words - the acknowledgement of the pain, the acknowledgement that this is hard and there is not a quick fix, the asking permission to lean in and offer them physical comfort - those things, I am here to tell you, they do help.

Is listening magic? No. But people who are suffering usually don't need magic. What they do need is a reminder that they matter, that they are heard, and that they are not alone. They need validation that this is hard, or sad, or whatever. They don't need knights in shining armor - they need someone who is willing to step into their pain and confusion with them. They need love and connection.

Anxiety and suffering make people feel like they are connected to nothing but chaos and failure. My willingness to sit with someone, affirm their difficulties, be vulnerable, and make the offer of silent but genuine connection (with a hug, holding the hand, or for some, just sitting with them is enough) will gently push back against the cognitive distortions - the mental myths - they've built up in their minds.

Being willing to be a physical reminder of love and connection is hard work, and you often will not see results right away. Consistency is important. Continuing to show up, without being asked (not in a creepy way, or a pushy way) will be needed.

"Hey, I know you said you were going through a lot. I Venmo'd you money so you can take yourself out to get a nice lunch during your lunch break today."

"Hi. I'm going to take the dog for a walk later today around the pond. I know you love that area too. Do you want to come with me? No is okay, but I wanted to ask."

"I'm headed to the store. Is there anything I could pick up for you?"

Connection is an important part of getting back to stable.

Because we are talking about anxiety, physical objects can really help. Nothing is magic - nothing will work on its own. Everything needs consistency, time, and if things turn into a crisis, emergency help (988 is the mental health emergency number in the United States). Most religious traditions have physical objects that are used to point to a spiritual reality. In the Christian tradition we have sacraments. Sacraments are physical symbols of God's love. That's just one example from one tradition, but I can tell you from experience that people in a psychiatric hospital cling to the symbols of love they are allowed to keep with them. I've seen people treat lava bead bracelets that a friend or sister dropped off as if they were more precious than the crown jewels. Cross necklaces, fidget rings - when a person feels like their anxiety has stripped them of who they are, these tokens of love become all the more important and sacred. That's why I carry the Guardian Ring in my store. The wings can be interpreted many ways, depending on your spiritual or religious tradition, but the message is the same: You are Not Alone. You are Being Guarded by my Love and the Love of Creator. This is not the End of Your Story. You Will Rise Above, When You are Ready. The Guardian Ring is not the only way to remind someone you are there for them. Find something/make something/draw something/write something that is genuine to your connection with your person and give it to them. They need help remembering that they are loved.

So, how do I remind my person that I love them? 

1. Show up

2. Listen without interrupting, correcting, or trying to fix things. You cannot fix this problem and you should be clear about that before you show up. This is bigger than you.

3. Ask permission to offer a hug, hold a hand, or, ask nothing and sit in silence after saying, "That sounds really awful. I don't know what to say. I'm so sorry and I love you and I'm here for you."

4. Find ways to show up. You know your person. Trust your gut, but also, don't be pushy. Give a way out of any offer. "Would you like to go on a walk with me? No is okay. It won't hurt my feelings. I just want you to know I love you, and I am literally here for you. I don't know what will help, but I'm here." Getting them a physical symbol of your love and care for them can be helpful for many people, but nothing is magic. If there is real magic, it happens when you show up with love and listening ears. 

5. Know where to go to find help if your person goes from having a bad day to crisis mode. If you call in outside help, yes, they may get mad at you. However, I've never met anyone who was in a crisis who didn't appreciate that their person went to get help once the person is crisis was better. 

I wish you all the love as you walk on this journey with your person. It isn't easy, but it is always worth it. And it doesn't hurt for you to know who your person is who will sit with you too. Showing up for people is beautiful, difficult work. You aren't alone either. Your story matters too. All the love to you.

Abrazos (Hugs),

Rev. Nicole Estefana (she/her), M.Div, BCC


Please click the link below to watch a two minute video from Brene Brown about how to show up for someone who is having a hard time:



Please click the link below to watch this two minute video clip from Inside Out for an example of how to be present with someone who is having a hard time:



Please click the link below if you are supporting someone with a mental health disorder and need to find a support group for yourself:

Please click on the links below if you have a mental health disorder and are looking for peers that you can meet with for support who understand what you are going through:

Please click the link below if you need help finding free and reduced-cost resources in your community for yourself or someone you love. For the United States only at this time. Resources listed by Zip Code: