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16 Anxiety ‘Solutions’ That Make People With Mental Illness Roll Their Eyes

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It’s no secret anxiety can be a debilitating health condition. Fortunately, most of us who live with anxiety have at least one friend or family member who claims to know a magical “cure” — and is all too happy to share it! According to their “helpful advice,” anxiety can easily be “solved” by yoga, meditation and green tea. Sigh, if only that were true.

In all seriousness, many of us who live with anxiety find our loved ones don’t fully understand the gravity of the condition. Comments like “Just don’t worry about it” and “Have you tried meditating?” seem harmless, but can actually do quite a bit of damage. Instead of reassuring people with anxiety, these comments tend to invalidate an experience that, for many people, is all too real.

We wanted to know what “anxiety solutions” that make people roll their eyes, so we turned to our mental health community to share their experiences. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of these comments, know that you’re not alone. What you’re going through is serious and you deserve to be supported by the people closest to you. If you ever need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Here are 16 comments that made people with anxiety roll their eyes:

1. ‘Don’t worry so much!’

“‘Don’t worry,’ ‘Relax’… Saying these things when I feel anxious does not help — at all. If you don’t know what to say to a person when they feel anxious, don’t say anything at all. Sometimes just being there and offering a hug or two is all that’s needed. ” — Brianna C.

“‘Just don’t worry about it and stop taking it so personally.’ As an obsessive perfectionist, all I do is take everything personally and worry about everything, all the time. I know what I’m feeling is way out of proportion… but my brain is yelling at me.” — Christine J. W.

“‘Stop worrying’ or ‘Don’t worry’  Yeah thanks, it’s all gone now! If only it was that easy, no one would have anxiety.” — Amy L.

2. ‘Have you tried meditating?’

“Mindfulness and meditation. I understand the benefits for people who can do it, but telling someone with anxiety to sit with their thoughts or clear their mind is like asking someone with a back injury to just get up and go for a walk. Constantly hearing ‘This can work for anyone if they do it right’ just makes me feel more like a failure.” — Rizzy R.

“Honestly meditation. If I wasn’t so bloody anxious maybe I could meditate, but seriously. Do you know who you’re talking to?” — Kristi G.

“’Why don’t you try meditating?’ Maybe because 10 minutes alone in my head is how we got here in the first place Karen!” — Cass L.

3. ‘You should smile more.’

“People always tell me to ‘Just calm down’ or that I’ll feel better if I smile.” — Megan G.

“My mum tells me to ‘Just smile.’” — Ali O.

4. ‘Just breathe!’

“‘Breathe’ or ‘Stop hyperventilating.’ Even after the situation that caused the anxiety is over, my anxiety doesn’t just stop. It isn’t a switch I can turn on and off. It usually takes a little while for me to stop feeling anxious and ‘just breathing’ doesn’t work.” — Katie S.

“Just close your eyes and breathe… The last thing I want to do is not see anything while in the middle of a panic attack. Telling me to breathe will get you hit.” — Kimberly W. B.

“Take a deep breath! The most destructive part of that is that no one talks about what kind of deep breath would be helpful (belly breathing), so most of us anxious folks are walking around taking ‘deep’ breaths and telling our brains that our fight or flight should be activated, and therefore actually spiking our anxiety.” — Ann M.

5. ‘Go for a walk.’

“‘Go to the beach and take a walk, every morning! It’s so beautiful!’… My eyes rolled multiple times.” — Markella P.

“‘Go for a walk’… Basically don’t bother me with it, just get over it… Thanks! Can’t believe I never thought of that…” — Ciaran K. D.

“Go for a walk outside! Write in a journal! … I think I could go on for days, but I don’t have the spoons for it.” — Alyssa B.

6. ‘Keep yourself busy.’

“I got told, ‘Go back to work it will do you good.’ ‘Don’t stay in all day, I will do you good to forget about things and keep busy.’ This wasn’t going to help, only create more anxiety.” — Leanne H.

“‘Hard work…’ Though I’ve always been a hard worker and still had anxiety… So um… Pretty sure that’s not a cure.” — Melanie W.

“One of the biggest things I keep hearing lately is ‘Keep yourself busy…’ I also have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, so this becomes a double slap in the face — not understanding anxiety and not understanding my medical conditions. Please do not tell me to keep myself busy.” — Arly S.

7. ‘Yoga will change your life.’

“Have you tried yoga?” — Ceara M.

“The ever-present: ‘Have you tried yoga? Or taking deep breaths?’” — Cheri B.

8. ‘You need to be more social.’

“’Go make friends.’ I have friends, but I’m terrified of communication with them as I don’t know if I’ll [make] them annoyed.” — Harriet E. B.

“’Stop canceling plans and be more social.’ Stop talking about how you feel and think of other people.” — Beth P.

9. ‘Give it to God.’

“Prayer. When people tell me that if I pray, read my Bible more or ‘Give it to God,’ then I won’t have anxiety, well that just makes me mad. I have a very strong faith but I know that my anxiety isn’t something I can just pray away.” — Maureen E.

“My church decided to tell me if I’d get in the Word more, my bipolar would be fixed. I wish they’d understand I’m on the path God set before me. It includes ups and downs, anger and medication.” — Ashley B.

“’Anxiety is a lack of faith, if you actually put your faith in God you wouldn’t be so anxious.’ My faith has nothing to do with anxiety… It’s really unfair to bring my faith into question because of my mental health…” — Echo S.

10. ‘Think happy thoughts.’

“‘Think happy thoughts.’ My mother has said this to me my entire life and it’s never once been helpful when I’m in the throes of a panic attack or feeling anxious.” — Sarah B.

“’Just think positive,’ or ‘Try not to worry so much…’ I feel misunderstood and angry when I hear this.” — Kellie M.

“My ultimate pet peeve — ‘Just have a positive mental attitude.’ Nothing wrong with trying to have a positive outlook, but telling people to do it is the same as saying, ‘Just cheer up,’ really.” — Scarlett P.

11. ‘Remind yourself other people have it worse.’

“Take a nice walk and be grateful you don’t have it worse than others.” — Sandy S.

“’You are so fortunate, what do you have to be anxious about?’” — Cher F.

“’Most people have it worse than you, think about them and their problems.’” — Veranikah K. H.

12. ‘Have you taken your meds?’

“‘Just take your pills.’ If I had a dollar for every time I’ve ever been told that, I’d be rich. I wish my pills were magical little things that took it all away, but realistically it helps, but doesn’t solve my anxiety issues.” — Sara L.

“The one time people noticed when I had a panic attack in public, everyone was asking if I had medication with me to ‘fix’ it. I realize some people choose to take meds for anxiety, but I’m not one of those people. Their reactions were along the lines of disapproval, like I was seeking attention or something because I chose not to take the ‘easier’ route.” — Allie L.

“‘Did you take your meds?’ People believe it’s an easy fix.” — Tresa C. G.

13. ‘Just relax!’

“‘Just relax.’ Thanks that’s the magical piece of the puzzle that solves my 35-year problem. How come I never thought of that? I could just relax and the anxiety will be gone! Magical life-changing advice there, buddy.” — Lou C.

‘Relax.’ This is a go-to for so many people who don’t understand… It’s so dismissive and hurtful. Does more harm than help. Makes me feel super alone and misunderstood.” — Kelly W.

“‘Just relax, it’s all in your head!’ And just like that, I’m healed! Oh wait, no, this isn’t a self-help book. The thing about ignorant and/or unsolicited advice is that it’s further isolating in that you quickly find out who not to be honest with or who to avoid. Sometimes, though, I feel like it stems from our innate insecurities surrounding saying, ‘I don’t know how to help’ or ‘I don’t understand.’” — Anné G. C.

14. ‘You need to face your fears.’

“’Face your fears and don’t let them stop you. Get out of your comfort zone/bubble.’ Yes, I know exposure therapy works for many, but even then it isn’t just like we can just do it and be over it. Even the anticipatory anxiety of facing our fears has to be dealt with.” — Brenda P.

15. ‘Exercise does wonders for anxiety!’

“’Go to the gym when you are anxious.’ Extra annoying if they suggest yoga. If I could do those things I would, but at peak anxiety I can barely stay level-headed enough to not have it go into a full panic attack.” — MK K.

“‘Maybe just try going for a run.’ First of all, I’m depressed and have asthma.” — Courtney C.

“Everyone tells me that exercise will make me feel better. What they don’t understand is I was a runner, and the anxiety I felt all the time while running was at unsettling levels. I was never happy and to this day, I feel extremely stressed out.” — Shaheena L.

16. ‘Have you tried…?’

“A friend’s mother messaged me and told me to burn sage in my house. She said it would help with my depression and anxiety. I know she had good intentions, but overall they were unhelpful/invalidating and coming from a place of ignorance. I felt like she was trying to ‘fix’ a ‘problem.’ The truth is, I’m likely going to deal with depression and anxiety the rest of my life, and when you treat those as a problem, it makes me feel like I am the problem.” — Megan T.

“‘Have you tried this tea/supplement/yoga?’ Yes. Yes I have. I try everything, but I need prescribed medication, and it’s not a magic cure. I still have anxiety.” — Laurynn B.

Many people who live with anxiety get comments like these all the time. They hurt, but they don’t make what you’re going through any less real. If you’re ever in need of support, feel free to reach out to our online anxiety support groups to connect to people who understand what it’s like to live with anxiety.

GettyImages photo via jarenwicklund

Originally published: January 3, 2020
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