Generic texts of the “hey, how are you” variety are always welcome. But if you’re
texting a friend who has anxiety — particularly if you know they’ve been having a tough time — take it as an opportunity to offer a little extra love and support.
“Anxiety can really send people to a dark place,”
Alexa Shank, MS, LPC, CEDS, a psychotherapist and owner of Relief & Recovery Psychotherapy, tells Bustle. Your friend might feel alone, overwhelmed, or completely consumed by worry. And while your text certainly won’t be a cure-all, it might just offer a brief moment of relief.
There’s also the fact that many folks with anxiety find it hard to
ask for help and support, Shank says, so if you haven’t heard from your friend in a while — or sense they’re covering up how they feel — be the one to reach out.
“Checking in and offering non-judgment and concern can feel extremely validating and
reassuring to those who might feel alone,” Shank says. “Additionally, unlike a phone call, they can re-read your text multiple times if they start to feel down or lonely again.” Here, 20 sample texts to send to a friend with anxiety for a variety of situations. “Just wanted to say I have anxiety too, and I know how tough it is!”
Opening up about your own experience with anxiety is a great way to connect with a 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, it’ll also reduce the false power dynamic that you are healthy and they are “broken,”
Tom Jones, APC, MAMFT, a mental health expert and clinician, tells Bustle.
It isn’t 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. “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 and send texts that
validate their experience instead. According to Jones, you can show empathy 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,’” he says. “These communicate that you see and hear their experience more than you want to fix it.”
“I’m here for you through all these ups and downs”
If your friend starts hinting that their anxiety is a “burden” on your relationship, stop them in their tracks. “A good response here,” Jones says, “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.” “Remember to focus on what’s happening right now”
If you are looking to send a wise word or two, 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. Or if they’re dwelling on the past.
Anxiety has a way of taking you out of the moment, Martin says, but this comment will remind them to take a deep breath and
focus on the present. “Let’s make some plans”
Make it a point to reach out with plans,
Mahesh Grossman, CCHt, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, tells Bustle. Offer something simple, like meeting for coffee or to walk 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 and cancel at the last second.
If that’s been their pattern, “let them know you'll be OK no matter what,” Grossman says, “especially if they seem reluctant to actually commit to something.”
“No worries at all. Do what you have to do. I don't take it personally”
If they do end up cancelling, make sure they know it’s OK by sending an understanding text like this one, Grossman says. They might feel really embarrassed, stressed, and possibly even worried you’ll stop being their friend, but this message will assure them everything’s fine.
“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 day, 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 they’re amazing, etc.
“Checking in with your friend via a compassionate text message can offer reassurance from a distance,”
Marjorie Cooper-Smith, MSW, LICSW, a psychotherapist, 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 should “snap out of it” or “get over it.” So avoid using words 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 says.
“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 is affirming that they’re trying and that it’s hard,
Kathryn Grooms, LCSW-R, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. “I’m taking a deep breath with you”
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 says, as a way of showering 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,
Thomas DiBlasi, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. Make it clear that, even though their anxiety is a huge challenge, they always find a way to pull through. “I’m right here. 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 meme 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 well, 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. I'm here if you ever wanna process through some stuff"
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 can’t write back right away. It’ll still be helpful for them to know you’re waiting in the wings.
This text also relieves the pressure of “performance anxiety,” Jones says, which will be a godsend for friends who tend to overthink their responses.
“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 be specific with your offers, especially if your friend’s anxiety is making them feel 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.’”
You know your friend best, and should cater your texts specifically to them. But the key takeaway when
texting a friend who has anxiety is to offer help, support, an open ear, and (most importantly) plenty of understanding. Sources: Alexa Shank, MS, LPC, CEDS, 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