Generic texts of the “hey, how are you” variety are always a welcome sight. But if you’re texting a friend who has anxiety — particularly one who’s been having an extra tough time — take it as an opportunity to show a little extra love and support.
Anxiety can really send people to a dark place,” says Alexa Shank, MS, LPC, CEDS, a psychotherapist and owner of Relief & Recovery Psychotherapy. A friend with anxiety might feel alone, overwhelmed, or completely consumed with worry. And even though a text certainly won’t cure them, it really could offer a brief moment of support or relief.
Many folks with anxiety also find it hard to reach out on their own to
ask for help, Shank says, which is why a quick text can serve as a way to start a helpful convo. If you haven’t heard from your friend in a while, or if you sense that they’ve been covering up how they feel, be the one to reach out and see if they need anything.
“Checking in and offering non-judgment and concern can feel extremely validating and
reassuring to those who might feel alone,” Shank tells Bustle. “Additionally, unlike a phone call, they can re-read your text multiple times if they start to feel down or lonely again.” Here, 25 sample texts to send to a friend with anxiety that fit a variety of situations. “Just checking in :)” Koh Sze Kiat/E+/Getty Images
A simple check-in with your friend will allow you to instantly give them the floor to share what’s on their mind. It isn’t, after all, always easy to
talk about mental health. But this is a way to start the convo so your friend can open up if they want to. “Hey bestie, haven’t heard from you in a few days. Everything OK?”
You can also phrase your text like this if you hope to get them talking. “Asking about how someone is feeling rather than just ‘how are you’ can invite them to label their emotion,” says psychotherapist
Kara Kushnir, MSW, LCSW. “Encouraging discussions about emotions reduces stigma, shame, and further anxiety about opening up and signals that you're a safe person to go to.” “I’m here for you through all these ups and downs!”
If your friend has hinted that their anxiety is a “burden” on your relationship, stop them in their tracks. “A good response here is to remind them that you aren't friends with them just for the ‘fun times.’ You are friends with them because you care about
all of their experiences,” says Tom Jones, APC, MAMFT, a mental health expert and clinician. “Just wanted to say I have anxiety too, and I know how tough it is”
Opening up about
your own experience with anxiety is another great way to connect with an anxious friend. So if it feels right, find a way to relate by sharing what you’ve been through. Not only will it help them feel less alone, but it’ll also reduce the false power dynamic that you are healthy and they are ‘broken,’ says Jones. “Wow, that sounds really stressful.”
It’s tempting to give advice, especially when you want so badly for your friend to feel better. But unless they ask for it, resist the urge. Instead, send texts that
validate their experience. You’ll show empathy simply by listening, asking questions, and being curious.
“Try phrases like, ‘Yea, I can see how that experience must have been stressful,’ or ‘Wow, so it sounds like you were really caught off guard when that happened,’” Jones says. “These communicate that you see and hear their experience more than you want to fix it.”
“Try to focus on what’s happening right now”
If you sense that a wise word would be appreciated, go with a text along these lines. “It could be useful if their anxiety is regarding a future event,”
Dr. Kimberly Martin, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. The same goes if they’re dwelling on the past.
Anxiety has a way of taking you out of the moment, Martin explains, but this text will remind them to take a deep breath and
focus on the present. “Let’s make some plans when you feel up to it”
You could also make it a point to reach out with plans, says certified clinical hypnotherapist
Mahesh Grossman, CCHT. Offer something simple, like meeting for coffee or walking around the neighborhood. They might enjoy getting out of the house in a low-pressure sort of way. “I won’t be insulted if you can’t hang out”
That said, keep in mind that a friend with anxiety might feel fine when they make plans, only to get hit with anxiety when it’s time to leave the house. If they tend to cancel at the last second, Grossman suggests letting them know you'll be OK no matter what. “Especially if they seem reluctant to actually commit to something,” he says. Sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re invited, even if you don’t feel up to going.
“No worries at all. Do what you have to do. I’ll never take it personally!”
If they do end up canceling, reassure them that it’s OK by sending a text like this one. They might feel really embarrassed, stressed, or worried that you’ll stop being their friend. But Grossman says a quick message will assure them everything’s fine, and remove any extra anxiety they might be experiencing.
“You’ve got this!”
If your friend is heading into an anxiety-provoking situation — like a job interview, a first date, or even a trip to the grocery store — send them a reassuring text. This one is simple and will offer a nice boost to their confidence, licensed therapist
Katie Sammann, LMFT-Associate, tells Bustle. "Oof, tough news today, how are you holding up?"
“This is good for your anxious, news-binging friend,” Sammann says. “If you notice something particularly upsetting or stressful being featured over and over on the news cycle, you might want to send them something like this to see how they're doing.”
“I care about you <3”
Don’t hold back from texting your friend out of the blue to tell them how much you love them, think about them, etc. “Checking in with your friend via a compassionate text message can offer reassurance from a distance,” psychotherapist
Marjorie Cooper-Smith, MSW, LICSW tells Bustle. But, more importantly, it lets your friend know they have your unwavering support. “That sounds really hard :/”
The last thing someone with anxiety wants to hear is that their feelings “aren’t a big deal.” Or worse, that they need to “snap out of it” or “get over it.” So avoid using phrases like this at all costs. By not minimizing their experience or being critical of it, it’ll show that you respect their current challenge or situation, Cooper-Smith explains.
“You’re doing the best you can!”
If your friend is being hard on themselves, remind them that anxiety makes life 100 times more difficult than it needs to be. Work, friendships, dating — even running a quick errand — can feel entirely overwhelming. This text affirms that they’re trying and that it’s hard, says licensed clinical social worker
Kathryn Grooms, LCSW-R. If that’s all they can do today, that’s OK! “I’m taking a deep breath with you” FreshSplash/E+/Getty Images
If their anxiety is kicking in, remind your friend of the
powers of deep breathing. Offer to pause and take a deep breath with them, Grooms suggests, as a way of showing support. “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for!”
You could also remind your friend that they’re way stronger than they give themselves credit for, says licensed clinical psychologist
Thomas DiBlasi, PhD. Make it clear that, even though their anxiety is a huge challenge, they have always found a way to pull through. “I’m listening. Tell me all about it”
Remember, one of the best ways to help a friend with anxiety is to offer yourself up as a sounding board. So, if you’ve got the time and the bandwidth, “just let them tell you about it,”
Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. “You don’t necessarily need to solve anything — just validate them by listening.” “This TikTok made me think of you :)”
To cheer your friend up, send a funny meme, TikTok, song — whatever will cheer them up or inject a little light-hearted energy into their day. As
Bette Alkazian, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, “Laughter is good medicine for anxiety.” “Can I bring you a smoothie?”
“People need connection right now more than ever,” Alkazian says, so if your friend isn’t coping with their anxiety, offer to pop by with a smoothie, a croissant — or simply sit on their stoop and chat for a minute. Chances are they’ll enjoy the company and appreciate the distraction.
“Totally OK if you can’t respond, but I'm here if you ever wanna talk through some stuff" damircudic/E+/Getty Images
Since responding to
texts can be totally overwhelming — and sometimes even impossible — for people with anxiety, go ahead and assure your friend that it’s fine if they don’t write back right away. This text relieves the pressure of “performance anxiety,” Jones says, which will be a godsend for friends who tend to overthink their responses. It’ll also be helpful for them to know you’re waiting in the wings. “What’s the best way to give you some support?”
Again, it’s so easy to rush through what a friend is venting about and jump right to the advice-giving portion of the conversation, Jones says. So instead of making assumptions about what they need, ask.
“Do you need help with anything? Maybe groceries or cleaning?”
Of course, it never hurts to come through with a specific offer, especially if your friend’s anxiety has them feeling stuck or glazed over.
“Let's say you know they have trouble cleaning when they're anxious,” Jones says. “You could say something like, ‘Hey can I come over to help you clean a little bit this weekend? We can listen to some stuff in the background and chat while we do it.’”
“It looks like things have been super annoying lately. What’s been on your mind?”
“This shows that you see them and their struggle,” says
Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University. It’s much more effective than the generic “how are you doing” text because it actually opens the floor for an honest chat.
“People often don’t answer that question truthfully and struggle with both revealing their struggle to others and ascertaining if others can hold it,” Romanoff tells Bustle. “This pushes past that sometimes-glib social custom, and instead allows for a more genuine conversation.”
“Want to go to your fave corner bakery?”
“Your friend may not be motivated to get dressed and go out when feeling stressed or overwhelmed,” Romanoff says. “A little push may be necessary, especially when it’s specific and no planning on their part is necessary.”
A text like this one can also serve as a reminder that they’re still able to have fun, even if their anxiety might be saying otherwise. “The process of getting dressed for an occasion can build anticipation and excitement,” she explains. “It’s not just about the [bakery]. It’s about how those plans impact your mindset and have the potential to further reinforce similar behaviors.”
“Remember that time when we drove to a concert last minute?”
“People with anxiety are likely to have a mental bias to the negative,” Romanoff says. “It is helpful to skew the quality and quantity of negative thoughts to a more balanced harmony with good memories,” which you can do by reminding them of a funny road trip, night out, or even a moment when they were brave.
Whatever type of message you decide to send, the key takeaway when texting a friend with anxiety is to offer support, a dash of positivity, and (most importantly) plenty of understanding.
Experts: Alexa Shank, MS, LPC, CEDS, psychotherapist Kara Kushnir, MSW, LCSW, psychotherapist Tom Jones, APC, MAMFT, mental health expert and clinician Dr. Kimberly Martin, clinical psychologist Mahesh Grossman, CCHt, certified clinical hypnotherapist Katie Sammann, LMFT-Associate, licensed therapist Marjorie Cooper-Smith, MSW, LICSW, psychotherapist Kathryn Grooms, LCSW-R, licensed clinical social worker Thomas DiBlasi, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist Bette Alkazian, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist and professor
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This article was originally published on
March 12, 2021