8 Incredible Ways to Embrace Someone Fighting Anxiety

Updated Jul 10, 2024
8 Incredible Ways to Embrace Someone Fighting Anxiety
Brought to you by Christianity.com

This article will closely examine how to help someone with anxiety. It's normal to face anxious thoughts, whether starting a new job, becoming a new parent, or experiencing the death of a loved one. Sometimes, lingering anxiety significantly affects health and mental acuity. In cases of severe anxiety, seeking help from professionals can be crucial.

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a woman praying; how can I help my friend with anxiety?

1. Allow Your Faith to Foster Understanding

This article will focus on practical and spiritual aid for those struggling with anxiety, highlighting the godly support of family and friends. This includes listening intently, praying, reading Scripture together, and encouraging lifestyle changes when needed. Being the body of Christ, we are called to carry each other’s burdens and lighten the load as much as possible. At times, that may include the help of Christian counselors and pastors.

When anxious thoughts dominate most of the 70,000 thoughts per day, seeking God's promises can dispel the darkness. A mind filled with God's Word leads to peaceful rest. Isaiah 26:3 confirms, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” During a stressful day or a distressed season, healing is possible for the child of God.

Speaking scriptures, singing praise songs, and surrounding ourselves with like-minded believers can strengthen healthy thinking and develop a peaceful heart. God assures a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). God's Word offers the gift of a wholesome with a renewed mind.

The numerous references to “Do not be afraid” found throughout Scripture persuade us that meditating on and internalizing God's Word can help turn fear into trust. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Guide, will assist and direct the ministry process of helping a friend or family member facing anxiety.

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sad man hugging another man as friends; how can I help someone with anxiety?

2. Choose to Respond with Compassion

Anxiety is a complex and multifaceted condition that can manifest in varying degrees and types. Mild anxiety, such as worry that is manageable or feeling nervous, may serve as a motivator to better performance. Moderate anxiety may interfere with normal daily routines and difficulty concentrating, stomach discomfort, or noticeable tension. Severe and panic-level anxiety, with symptoms of dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom, often require professional intervention. 

Anxiety disorders can manifest in various ways, including persistent and excessive worry (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), sudden and intense panic attacks (Panic Disorder), extreme fear of social situations (Social Anxiety Disorder), intense fear triggered by specific objects or situations (Specific Phobias), recurrent, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), re-experiencing trauma with flashbacks and nightmares (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and excessive fear of separation from attachment figures (Separation Anxiety Disorder).

Common symptoms across these disorders include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and avoidance behaviors. 

For the believer, trust in God is a powerful way to reconcile issues of anxiousness. In helping a friend, compassion and thoughtful support reveal genuine care in considering others' interests above our own (Philippians 2:4). However, depending on the degree of anxiety, the best support could be to direct the person to a professional Christian counselor, beyond the lay person’s expertise. 

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Men praying together; remembering God is in control; how can I help someone with anxiety?

3. Offer Godly Support

The foundation of offering support to someone with anxiety begins with prayer, a bond that strengthens the anxious person, and scripture, emphasizing God's care and powerful ability to help. Many scriptures instill positive thoughts that can ease anxiety. Consider 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Matthew 6:34 reminds us to focus on the present and not let future worries overwhelm us: “Do not worry about tomorrow.” These verses, among others, provide reassurance and guidance, helping to ease an anxious mind.

The familiar Proverb 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding," emphasizes God's greater knowledge and assurance that He will work out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Jesus comforted His disciples with these words: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

The Word and prayer can replace anxious thoughts with peace and assurance. The helper can pray and read scriptures together in person or over the phone. Additionally, sending an encouraging verse before bedtime, like Psalm 91, Matthew 6:34, or Philippians 4:6-7, can lend uplifting, positive thoughts to end the day.  

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meeting talking friends meet conversation work colleagues; how can I help someone with anxiety?

4. Pray for the Patience and Perspective to Listen and Understand

Giving your undivided attention to the one speaking to you is a gift. Listening with a Christ-like heart helps an anxious person feel accepted and affirmed. David, who was feeling anxious and overwhelmed, confided in a close friend, Mark, who listened attentively without interrupting. James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen,” described Mark’s non-judgmental and supportive approach. “I’m here for you, and I’m listening” made David feel understood and less alone. 

Listening without distraction and shouldering another’s burden shows love and care, embodying the truth that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). With empathy and compassion, we can “carry each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Fulfilling the law of Christ, the second greatest command to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” teaches selflessness, humility, and reliance on God’s strength and direction. 

God’s love in action is helping others with their burdens, contributing to the anxious person's and the listener’s spiritual growth. Listening, which ends with prayer, brings God’s presence together. “Where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, said, “We don’t need answers and explanations as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering.” Indeed, God's presence changes circumstances and brings comfort amidst anxiety.

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Woman in a counselor's office; how can I help someone with anxiety?

5. Encourage Professional Help and Spiritual Guidance

While my husband and I were co-pastoring a challenging church, we sought the help of a Christian counselor to ensure we remained emotionally strong and clear-headed. We experienced anxiety, turmoil, and sleep disturbances during that time. The counselor's comforting and healing words provided the assurance that we needed to face the challenge, stay stable, and accomplish our tasks with God’s help and direction.

Counseling is sometimes perceived as a sign of weak faith within Christian circles. However, seeking professional help is a way to utilize the resources God has wisely provided. Conditions of lingering or severe anxiety can benefit from a holistic approach that includes prayer, scripture, supportive friends, counselors, and pastors. Attending worship services and receiving spiritual guidance through preaching adds another layer of support in the ongoing battle against anxiety.

An outstanding testimony from a woman in our church who suffered from anxiety and was institutionalized highlights the healing power of daily Bible reading. We provided her with a Bible and motivated her to read it daily as a step in her healing. God’s speaking through the Scriptures to her troubled heart and mind reduced what was initially expected to be at least a two-year stay to six months. This life-changing experience shows the power of the living and active Word of God to build faith and confidence, leading to a transformed life.

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Depressed woman sitting in her room; how can I help someone with anxiety?

6. Remain Supportive through Change and Challenges 

Prioritizing time to listen and provide support, engaging in physical activities such as exercising together, participating in small group Bible studies, or sharing a meal shows compassion that strengthens the bonds of friendship. 

Being alone and secluded can make a person susceptible to discouragement and overwhelming negative thoughts. Staying active helps refocus anxious thoughts. Engaging in activities such as dining out together, attending concerts, or taking walks in public places can help redirect the mind toward positive experiences and away from persistent negative thoughts.

Getting outdoors can be profoundly beneficial for mental well-being. As the Greek physician Hippocrates famously said, "Nature itself is the best physician." According to an article in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), participants who took a 90-minute walk through a natural environment reported lower rumination levels and reduced neural activity in brain regions associated with mental illness risk. 

Acts of service, such as visiting a sick neighbor or helping an elderly couple paint their porch, along with regular scripture reading, daily prayer, and staying connected socially, can effectively shift negative thought patterns. Calling a friend when feeling down and participating in church activities provides additional support. These consistent, small actions begin a transformative journey toward refocusing attention on others and finding purpose in serving them.

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Praying over the Bible; how can I help someone with anxiety?

7. Offer Patience and Prayer

In our fast-paced society, where immediate answers and quick fixes are often sought, patience—a fruit of the Spirit—is a virtue that fosters healing and wholeness. As the saying goes, "All good things come to those who wait," especially as one waits on God’s help and timing (Isaiah 40:31). God offers restoration. 1 Peter 5:10 describes the relief of anxiety: 

”And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 

Healing unfolds over time through ongoing prayer, which "avails much" (James 5:16). Enduring the loss of a spouse or child can feel unbearable, leading to sleepless nights, physical illness, and overwhelming stress. However, with the passage of weeks and months, emotional wounds begin to find solace and distance from the deepest pain and trauma. The power of God’s Word is likened to medicine: 

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” - Proverbs 17:22 

Immersing ourselves in God’s Word and His promises of healing, restoration, and deliverance gradually dispels the darkness of anxiety, harmful memories, and emotional distress. Just as God’s power resurrects the dead, it also brings healing to the living.

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Support group; how can I helps someone with anxiety?

8. Remember, All Hurts on This Earth Are Temporary

How do we help someone with anxiety? According to studies, the human mind generates up to 70,000 thoughts daily, with approximately 80% being negative. This continuous cycle can lead to a discouraged and anxious state of mind. When guilt and shame are added, mental distress intensifies. The good news is that our minds are adaptable and can be “renewed” (Romans 12:1-2), “restored” (Isaiah 61:7), and “retrained” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Anxiety doesn’t have to last forever. Medical, psychological, personal, spiritual, and professional evidence supports this. Our minds are remarkable and capable of learning, reshaping, and forming new thought patterns. Saturating the mind with God’s eternal Word will make thoughts healthier and more aligned with positive, healthy thoughts, gaining steadfastness that leads to peace. 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. . . and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).  

In conclusion, recognizing the signs, showing compassion, listening without judgment, and encouraging both spiritual guidance and professional help are important to effectively support someone with anxiety. Promoting lifestyle changes, incorporating spiritual practices, being patient, and offering continual prayer are essential for holistic support. As believers, we can never underestimate God’s power to heal and restore the anxious mind and heart. 

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:19). 

Related Podcast: Jesus promised that His followers would recognize His voice. While this is true, there are ways we can dull our spiritual ears and ways in which we can heighten our sensitivity to His still soft voice. 

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This article originally appeared on Christianity.com. For more faith-building resources, visit Christianity.com. Christianity.com

SWN authorJudy McEachran loves to worship the Author of life and love. She is an ordained pastor and gifted musician who writes and speaks to encourage believers. She pastored churches in the Midwest and after retirement moved to Arizona. She is humbled not only by the gracious love of God but by her devoted husband, two sons, and ten grandchildren. You can visit her website at God Secrets that Impart Life. Find her music on YouTube. Judy’s natural musical giftings invite worshippers into the presence of the Lord.

Originally published Friday, 28 June 2024.