You’d rather spend an afternoon with your in-laws than text a friend when you’re anxious — because reaching out for support sucks. (Reality check: your bestie will probably love to hear from you and share their good vibes with you.) Figuring out what texts to send when you’re feeling anxious is tough, especially if you’ve gotten less-than-ideal responses in the past. But even if your BFF doesn’t have the *perfect* answer for you, texting your friends to ask for help is a first step to feeling better.
Freaking out about the fact that you’re freaking out is normal, says mental health counselor Lawrence Lovell, L.M.H.C. Just like anything else in a relationship, take it slow when you’re texting your friends when you’re anxious. Try something small — “Can you help me pick out what to wear tonight?” — and gradually build up to things like, “I think I need to break up with my partner and I’m panicking.” If crisis strikes and you haven’t been able to practice, try reminding yourself of that time you went to pick your friend up from the bar when they ran into their ex — friendship is a give and take, and you’ve given, so it’s your turn to take.
Be specific about what you want when you reach out, Dr. David Harari, M.D., director of behavioral health at K Health, suggests. That can subtly signal how your friend can help you — and you can rest assured that you’ve communicated clearly, which makes things easier on everyone involved. “Would you like emotional and verbal support, or would you prefer advice and guidance?” Dr. Harari asks. Answer the question for yourself, and let your friend know. A simple “Hey, this thing is happening — are you around to give me some advice?” will do the trick.
Dr. Harari says it’ll help to lead with the vibe of “I deserve comfort” rather than “I hate having to ask for help.” When your instinct is to say “Sorry for bothering you,” try “Thanks for talking this out with me” instead. It might feel cheesy, but Lovell says that positive self-talk like this can help you feel better about reaching out for support.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.