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The Staircase That Is Anxiety

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

No matter how laid back you are, how accepting of the present moment, or how well you manage stress, everyone knows what it’s like to feel worry or to be anxious. While many of us feel these moments of anxiety for only short periods of time, for some, the feeling of anxiety never quite goes away. If you haven’t lived with chronic anxiety, it can be really hard to understand how debilitating this feeling can be and what impacts it can have on the life of the person suffering from it. In this post, we’ll share how you can support a loved one living through anxiety.

In the following video, we see a great example of what it can feel like to have anxiety, and how, sometimes, this “anxiety staircase” can become a tremendous obstacle for the person living with it:

This video shares some hard truths about anxiety. The first is that the person living with anxiety knows that what they are worried about is often irrational. That they can see what it would feel like to approach life without worry. Regardless of this knowledge, and this is one of the most important points made here, is that it is ALWAYS a struggle for the person with anxiety to get to a point where they do not feel it, where they are operating within the realm of rational thought.

What does this mean for those of us with a loved one who is experiencing anxiety? Take a look at the below tips for supporting someone dealing with this issue:

  • Remember that the staircase is always there, but depending on the day, it might be much larger and steeper than it was before. This means that whatever issue is causing anxiety, some days this might be a small struggle and others an impossible one. It’s important not to tell the person with anxiety to simply get over this issue – they don’t have control over the size of that staircase.
  • The top of the staircase is usually visible… but sometimes it may be clouded. When the person with anxiety seems unable to see the rational “landing,” gently remind them that this exists and that whether or not they reach it that day is okay.
  • There will be days when the person with anxiety cannot climb the staircase. Maybe they’ve already tried and slid back down; maybe it is so overwhelming that they just can’t do it. Share your support with them, but don’t force them to do something they simply don’t have the mental energy to do.
  • Celebrate the successes. When a person with anxiety does something they were previously unable to do (even a task that may seem simple to others), give positive reinforcement. This is the fuel that can encourage those living with anxiety to push themselves a bit further every day.