Designers come in all shapes and sizes. Some work in cubicles, hustling away on creative work for large corporations, while others sit in a coffee shop slaving away on their latest piece for client work. No matter where you stand in that spectrum, stress is a part of the job, and with that comes anxiety — the worry and unease that naturally happens when people judge you on a regular basis by your creativity. How do you manage that? And what do you do if it's not happening to you, but one of your buddies in the field?
Anxiety is a very real thing, and although we're not medical doctors by any stretch of the imagination, it helps sometimes to think about some simple phrases to tell either yourself or your suffering friend in these times of need. They won't all be perfect for every scenario, and you may just have to seek out help for the afflicted, but every step that moves you forward is a good one.
"Let's go for a walk outside."
One thing that helps ease people with anxiety is the outdoors, and another is exercise. Just by going out on a walk, not only will you fill both needs, but you'll have time to talk along the way.
"What can I do to help?
It's important for the other person to know that you're there for them, and by posing this as a question, you're letting them know that whatever they need, you'll be there, no matter what.
"Let's talk it out together."
Anxious people can run into a feedback loop, thinking the same nervous thoughts over and over again. By talking about it with you, they can break that cycle, and get down to the root of what's making them feel this way. Then, you'll be able to work through it together.
"You're going to be alright."
The key here is not to be pandering, but instead, understanding. Don't try to belittle the anxious person's problem, but instead let them know that it will be better, and that's important.
"What will happen next?"
A lot of times anxious people feel that way because of not only what has happened, but what could happen, which is a tricky thing to follow. After all, it hasn't happened yet, so what's the problem, right? Ask them to walk you through this scenario, so not only can you help rationalize the situation, but also so you can help them understand what you can do to help.
"This feeling won't last forever."
Anxiety can make you feel like it's never ending, and that's no fun. Sometimes you just need to be reminded of that fact, so consider this as an option to your anxious friend. Maybe that little bit of advice will remind them that there is hope in the future.
"I feel the same way sometimes, and it's not fun."
Anxious people can feel alone, particularly when they're stuck in a feedback loop. By reminding them that other people feel this way — including you — that means there's at least one other person who knows exactly what they're feeling. Relate a personal story, but make sure to keep the focus on the anxious person and not turn the light on yourself. Just explain how you know what it's like, then continue to help them through it.
"You're not the only one that's ever felt this way."
This hits on the same point as above, just in a different direction. There have been thousands of years of humans, and chances are pretty good this problem has come up before. That kind of tip can help.
"Sometimes it's OK to be anxious."
Again, this is about acknowledgement, which is important. It is OK to feel anxious, and that's not always fresh in your mind when going through this kind of thing, so remind your friend of that.
"What's the first thing we need to worry about?"
This serves two purposes. First, it lets them know that they're not alone in the journey, by using "we." Second, it walks them through the process of what's worrying them, so you two can troubleshoot and solve it.
"I'm proud of you already."
When you're feeling low it's hard to imagine that anyone could feel anything for you, and this reminds your anxious friend how you feel. And if you are proud of them, this could pull them up that much more.
"I know this is difficult."
Acknowledgement is so key to all of this, and a simple statement like this can help smooth things out a lot.
"We can work through this together."
One person in a storm can struggle to deal with the wind, but when they've got someone to help prop them up, the two are stronger as a whole.
"Remember when you did X before?"
We all have gone through tough times in the past, and if you remind your friend that they've done something similar before, then they'll realize that there is an end game.
"This is a judgment-free area, so let's talk about it."
Anxiety can make you think irrationally, and that even your closest friend is against you. By laying it out, you're making it clear that there will be no stones thrown in this situation.
"You can call me anytime you want."
Sometimes the situation can't be resolved right away, and even if it can, the person may relapse. Let them know that you're there, whenever they need them, and are just a phone call away.
"Not everything is going to be fair, and that's OK."
The cold realities of the world can be shocking, but with acceptance things can get better.
"Once you get through this, you'll be glad that you made it."
Pushing through the problem can be hard, but you'll be better for it in the end. Remind them of that.
"You don't need to fight your feelings."
It's easy for the anxious person to feel like they need to deny their own feelings, so let them know that it's OK for them to have those emotions.
"You're exactly where you are today because that's where you need to be."
This is a bit more philosophical, but the premise is pretty simple. If this is destiny, then you'll be all the better for it in the end.
"Nobody is going to remember this moment in five years or five months."
Time is temporary, as is pain. Nothing is permanent and even people in the dumps can come back. There's no better example of that than John Travolta and Ben Affleck, who both made horrific career mistakes and then came back to glory.
"There's a lesson hidden in everything."
If you can learn from your mistakes, then you'll be all the better in the long run. Figure out what they can take from what's going on and make it into a positive thing.
"Tell me the worst thing that could happen."
The important part here is not to ask this sentence as a question, but instead to ask them to explain how they see the situation going down. Talking helps.
"Let's look for some evidence."
Their anxiety may be based in fear, which could be irrational. Looking for evidence of their fears shows them the flaws in that logic.
"This is about you."
You might be tempted to start this sentence with, "It's not about me, this is about you," but that can come off as combative. Instead, just focus on how you're there for them, and how you should stay out of the equation.
"You are safe."
Anxious people may feel like the world is crashing down around them, and there's nowhere to hide. You're telling them they're in a safe place, which always helps.
"Tell me more about your experience."
Get them talking, because then you're both involved and helping each other.
"I'm sorry you're going through that."
This isn't about condescension; make sure that you're sincere in your wording.
"That must be hard for you."
Sincerity, just like in the previous one, is the important part of this phrase. You're empathizing, not judging.
Sometimes, all your friend wants to do is talk things out, not hear potential solutions, but they can't necessarily articulate that need. Just listen to them and their complaints, nodding and understanding as you go, only asking questions for clarification. That may be their best option.
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