The phrase “don’t worry” gets thrown around a lot. When I’m stressed about an assignment, a big test or getting into law school, the first words out of most people tend to be something along the lines of “don’t worry.” And I get it. When life gets a little crazy, it’s easy to allow ourselves to stress and worry, even over insignificant things. However, I’m tired of hearing “don’t worry.”
Dealing with any stressful event isn’t as simple as that. Worry isn’t a light switch. You can’t turn it off and on as you please. You can work through it, but it’s rarely, if ever, that simple. For people with anxiety, it’s worse than simple worrying.
Those assignments and tests each seem like a mountain that you have to climb, and no amount of deep breathing is going to erase that tightness in your chest or help you sleep better at night.
Even though most people mean well when they tell others not to worry, it’s honestly about as effective as telling someone having a panic attack to calm down. It just doesn’t work.
Taking the time to reassure people who are worried goes a much longer way. Even better is actually helping them work through the things that are stressing them out. When I’m worried, it helps to have someone to talk to who gives suggestions and asks questions.
For example, “What strategies have you been using to study? Maybe finding a different method will help you get a higher grade.” This works much better than, “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.” Being asked those kinds of questions helps the process of working through the stress move much more smoothly, and doesn’t treat the stressed person as though their fears are ridiculous.
When you have anxiety, those conversations can mean the difference between a sleepless night and a good night’s rest.
At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for how they handle stress. But knowing that you are supported makes a difference and gives you the extra push you need to make it through the worry and be successful.