So we are discussing how to provide support to your loved ones without swinging back and forth between feeling overwhelmed and getting frustrated.  (For the blog post where I outline the common pattern that leads to those outcomes, click here.)

Rather than providing endless reassurance (the HUG), or getting stuck feeling judgmental (the HARSH), I suggest you aim for the sweet spot in the middle.

Try to move toward the center of the pendulum’s path.

That’s the place where you:

Respect that they are in distress, and offer support, but don’t try to rescue.

Take a measured, even tone.

Contain your irritation, at least enough so it doesn’t take center stage.

Provide focused reassurance!  Keep it primarily to these ideas:  ”I know you’ll get through the anxiety, and if I thought there were a serious danger, I would be in emergency mode to help you.”

Support their efforts to get through it as best they can for now, and support the idea that they can get better at it going forward.  Hopefully they are already learning some cognitive-behavioral principles for managing their anxiety!

In any case, (and especially if you are applying this to your own anxiety moments), remember that it helps to at least recognize and tolerate anxious thoughts and sensations, and that you can plan to re-evaluate them later when you are not in the midst of them.

While these basic guidelines may seem easier said than done, it is true (indeed, research-proven) that better anxiety management comes from understanding the dynamics that trigger and perpetuate it, and practicing new tools and strategies.  So starting to learn about these dynamics will help get you, or your loved one, to that sweet spot, the center of the pendulum’s path.