How You Can Help the People You Love When They Need It Most

It felt like I couldn’t breathe. Like someone was holding me by the neck, against a wall, and the floor might drop from beneath us at any moment. I’m describing a panic attack, but this has actually happened to me before—being held by the neck against a wall, that is, not the other part. Growing up I experienced many moments like that, moments when I felt unsafe, physically and emotionally.  (

There were countless experiences that reinforced to me, over the years, that I couldn’t let my guard down, because at any moment I could be hurt. So I learned to be constantly anxious, eternally on guard, ever ready for a threat. I learned to be tightly wound, my fight-or-flight response permanently triggered. And I learned to see minor threats as major problems, because that’s another thing I learned as a kid: Sometimes seemingly small things could make other people snap.Unsurprisingly, I grew into an adult who snapped over small things all the time. Got bleach on my interview outfit? No one will ever hire me now!She doesn’t want to be my friend? Why doesn’t anyone love me? Found a suspicious lump? I’m going to die!

Okay, so that last one isn’t actually a “small thing,” but the point is I was constantly scared. Life was a string of lions to tame, and I lived in a land without chairs. I believe my early experiences, being bullied in varied environments, led to my years of depression and anxiety. For you or your loved one, there may be other causes. Some people are genetically predisposed to anxiety, some struggle because of stressful circumstances, and for some, physical conditions play a role. But this isn’t a post about what causes anxiety. This is a post about what not to say when someone’s panicking.  (

What Can You do to Help Someone Experiencing an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety can completely overwhelm your mind and body, and we often exacerbate our pain by being cruel to ourselves in our head.“Get it together!” we scream at ourselves. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you such a mess?” But none of these thoughts are helpful. Though the people who love us are generally not as cruel, they sometimes say less than helpful things as well, solely because they don’t know any better.

Even as someone who has experienced anxiety, I have said some of the things below to people who were struggling, because I felt powerless. And when you feel powerless, it’s hard to think straight. All you know is that you want to fix it for them. You want to have answers. But sometimes when we’re in fix-it mode, despite our best intentions, we inadvertently add fuel to the fire.

So, as someone who’s been on both sides of the coin, I’d like to share some phrases to avoid when someone is dealing with anxiety, and offer a little insight into what actually helps.  (

Things Not to Say to Someone Who’s Struggling with Anxiety

1. What you’re stressing about won’t even matter in a year.

In many cases, this is true. If someone’s worrying about a minor car accident, it’s entirely likely what they’re stressing about won’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. But this isn’t a universally true statement. A minor accident could lead to major car trouble, which could lead to missing work, which could lead to lost pay, which could lead to getting evicted. And that could very well matter in a year. Is this chain of events likely? No, but it’s still possible.

It’s not reassuring to tell someone the worst-case scenario won’t happen because sometimes, it does. But more importantly, in that moment when someone is in the midst of anxiety, it feels catastrophic, and you can’t rationalize those feelings away—at least not immediately. When someone is panicking, they don’t need logic; they need validation. They need validation that yes, life is uncertain and “bad” things do happen, and validation that it’s okay to feel scared.

They also need a reminder that in this moment, they are safe. And that’s all they need to think about right now: breathing and grounding themselves in this moment in time.

2. Life’s too short to worry. 

All this does is create more anxiety, because in addition to whatever that person was initially stressing about, they now have to worry that they’re missing out on life because of an emotional response that feels beyond their control.  (

Yes, life is short. And we all naturally want to make the most of it. But you wouldn’t tell a diabetic “Life is too short to have too much sugar in your blood.” Sure, you’d encourage them to make healthy food choices, but you’d realize this phrasing would vastly oversimplify the effort required from them to manage their condition and maintain healthy habits. The same is true of anxiety. Anyone who’s struggled with it understands there are far better ways to live, and this knowledge pains them. What they may not know is how to help themselves.

3. Calm down.

“Calm down” is the goal, not the action step. It’s what we all want to do when we’re panicking. It’s the shore in the distance, and it can feel miles away as we gasp for air in the undertow of emotion and struggle to stay afloat.

If you know any good methods that help you calm yourself—deep breathing exercises, for example—by all means, share them. But it’s probably best not to get into much detail in the moment when someone is panicking. Imagine someone hanging off a cliff, about to fall into a pit full of tigers. That’s what anxiety can feel like.

If you were to stand at the edge and scream, “COME TO YOGA WITH ME TOMORROW! DID YOU KNOW THAT YOGA CAN HELP YOU…” that person would likely be too consumed by their terror to hear you or your convincing argument. What they need to hear in that moment is “Take my hand!” And the same is true of anxiety. Hold their hand. Help them breathe. Help them come back into the moment. Then, when they feel safe, that’s a good time to tell them what’s helped you.

That’s another important thing to remember: We all want to hear what’s helped other people deal, not what someone who’s never experienced our struggles has read about. Share your experience, not your expertise. None of us need a guru; we need friends who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable.  (

. It’s no big deal.

This comes back to the first point: In that moment, it feels like a big deal. A very big deal. It feels like the biggest, scariest, worst thing that could happen, and you can’t turn that fear off like a switch.

When someone says, “It’s not a big deal,” the anxious mind translates this as “You’re overreacting—which is further proof that you’re broken.” Instead, try, “I know it’s hard. And scary. But you’re not alone. I’m here to help you get through this.” It’s amazing how much it helps when someone reinforces that it’s okay to be scared—it’s human, even—but we don’t have to face it alone.

5. It’s all in your head.

Yes, thoughts and fears all originate in our head, but that doesn’t make our feelings any less real. The anxious mind translates “It’s all in your head” as “Your head is defective,” because knowing that thoughts fuel anxiety doesn’t make it any easier to stop thinking anxious thoughts.

When we’re thinking anxious thoughts, what we need is a reminder that they often arise naturally—for all of us. We don’t need to worry about changing them. We just need to practice accepting them when they arise and disengaging from them. So try this instead: “I can understand why you’re thinking those thoughts. I’d probably think some of the same things if I were in your shoes. If you want, you can tell me all your anxious thoughts. They’re trying to protect you in their own way, so maybe they just need to be heard and then they’ll quiet a bit.”

6. Let it go.

I have, over the years, written many posts with advice on letting go. I believe it’s healthy to strive to let go of anger, resentment, fears, the past, and anything else that compromises our ability to be happy and loving in the present.

I think, though, letting go is something we may need to do repeatedly. It’s a practice, not a one-time decision, and certainly not something we’re well equipped to do in a moment when we’re gripped by fear. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote,  (

It’s not a matter of letting go—you would if you could. Instead of ‘Let it go’ we should probably say ‘Let it be’.

That’s what we need in the moment when we’re panicking: We need to give those feelings permission to exist. We need to give ourselves permissions to be a human being experiencing those feelings. And we need to know the people around us love us enough to accept us as we are—even if it might make them feel more comfortable if we were better able to just “let it go.”

7. Things could be so much worse.

Yes, things could always be worse, we all know this. Like many statements on this list, this phrase does little other than evoke guilt. And for the anxious mind, guilt can lead to more anxiety.

Now, on top of their initial fears, they’re worrying that they’re not a good person because they can’t rationalize their anxiety away with gratitude. I’m not suggesting that it never helps to put things in perspective, but coming from someone else, this almost always sounds condescending. Condescension leads most of us to feel inferior, and it’s even worse when we’re already feeling ashamed because of our struggle, as many of us do.

8. Be positive.

Anxiety isn’t just about negativity. For many of us, like me, it’s a learned response from a traumatic past in which we felt persistently unsafe. You can train your brain to be more optimistic, and in doing so, minimize anxious thoughts. But this involves far more time, effort, and support than the phrase “be positive” conveys.

Also, “be positive” suggests that “positive” is something one can become—permanently—which ignores the reality that lows are inevitable in life. No one is positive all the time, and often the people who seem to be are actually being passive-aggressive. Phrases like “Look on the bright side” and “See the glass as half full” can seem incredibly patronizing when you’re hurting. They minimize just how hard it can be to see the world optimistically, especially when you’ve experienced trauma.

So instead, show them what it looks like to be positive. Be loving and open and calm and accepting and supportive and present. This probably won’t heal them of their struggle or banish their anxiety in the moment when they’re panicking, but it’s amazing how you can affect someone for the better by being a healthy mirror.  (

After reading this list, you might think I’m suggesting there is no way to heal from anxiety; we just need to help people accept it and get through it. But that’s not actually my point. There are tools out there to help people. I personally recommend therapy, yoga, and meditation, as these three tools combined have helped me learn to better regulate my emotions. My point is that even when someone is making the efforts to help themselves, it takes time; they may still struggle, and in those moments they simply need love, acceptance, and, support.

If you’ve said some of these things in the past, know that we recognize you’re imperfect, just like us, but we still appreciate all that you do. We also appreciate that you read articles like this to better understand and support us. The world can be a scary place, but knowing that people like you care enough to help us, makes it feel a whole lot safer.

By Lori Deschene




Jun 18, 2019 2 years ago

It is the deep, integral connection between mood and food. Beyond the happy coincidence that these words rhyme, the two are complexly and biochemically intertwined in a way that is far-too-often minimized in our modern discussion of behavior, emotion and overall health. (

Somewhere along the line, we were cunningly persuaded to believe in the body and mind as two very distinct operational entities, and this rigid paradigm has left an unfortunate gap in our understanding of the scientific workings of nutrients as building blocks for the brain and nervous system. In an era where restrictive dieting and low-fat food choices are viewed as glimmering badges of health, mounting evidence displays a dangerous correlation between nutrient deficiencies, poor digestive health and rising mental distress.

Mental Illness on The Rise

Depression, anxiety and related mental health disorders are startlingly complex and pervasive. Involving tangled interactions of biological, psychological and social factors, such complex disorders have long been considered forlorn “outsiders” in the realm of scientific and medical study. (

The terms depression and anxiety themselves have even come to carry with them an ominous cloud of stigmatizing beliefs- casting a shadow of shame and secrecy around those who struggle with these “mysterious” conditions. And yet, despite this cold and isolating perspective, such debilitating mental health disorders are startlingly common across our population.

In fact, best estimates reveal that during a lifetime, more than 25% of individuals develop at least one mental or behavioral disorder. The World Health Organization has even projected that by 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of medical disability on earth. Given these shocking predictions, mental health conditions, once written off as “personal failures” or “weaknesses,” are now garnering greater attention as significant public health concerns.

A recent report released at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care revealed that 70%of visits to primary care physicians in the United States are related to psychosocial issues. (2) With this incredible rate of visits, doctors do with their observations what they were trained to do: prescribe medications based on the symptoms they observe.

This trend has resulted in an extreme surge in the prevalence of antidepressant drugs being used across the population- a 400% increase since 1994. According to a recent government report, about 1 in 10 Americans aged 12 and over use antidepressants. As the third most common prescription across all ages, their use is rampant.

Paradoxically, researchers also found that less than 1/3 of the Americans taking an antidepressant medication had seen a mental health professional in the past year- making medication their sole route of treatment despite the acknowledgment of mental health as a complex realm that requires multiple care approaches.

The Role of Nutrition

These findings are startling and provocative to say the least, bringing into question the underlying cause to such disparities. What is the best way to heal these problems? And why the dramatic increase in anxiety and depression anyway?    (

These are convoluted questions, with deeply personal implications and answers that are largely varied, muddled and overall unclear. It is likely that there are many factors at play and that you could trace numerous threads in the situation without ever unknotting it completely.

There does however seem to be a changing tide when it comes to mental health. Until this point, there has been a great deal of focus in mental health care on artificially correcting potential biochemical imbalances in the brain.

Yet, emerging neurobiological evidence has revealed that the neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that steer our emotional course are not isolated to the head, but rather reside in each system of the body.

Of the almost three hundred internal communication substances used to carry out daily functions, nearly all are shared throughout the body. (4) Thus it seems to be time to take a look at disruption in mood from a whole body-mind perspective and to include in the discussion the undeniable value of nutrition.  (

At the very most basic level, all of our systems require the proper balance of nutrients and enzymes to work correctly- a balance that most Americans simply aren’t getting in our fractured modern food system. (4)

Our brain and body systems rely on receiving a substantial amount of raw material to carry out their complex and intricate roles. Without this foundation, no other interventions can be fully effective, optimal or lasting, and their impact in making a sustainable difference is lessened.

This fundamental link between food and mood is not new, and when you really think on it, the concept makes a lot of sense. Many historic figures and modern researchers alike have observed and discussed the connection between nutritional deficiencies and behavior patterns, yet their unprofitable projects have been far too often ignored and stymied by a backdrop of more “exciting” medical research.

Luminary researcher Weston A. Price is best known for his early twentieth century studies on the fundamental components of a healthy diet and the influence of clean, traditional foods in preventing chronic disease. However, what many people don’t realize is that he also observed a great deal about mood and behavior.

According to Sally Fallon-Morrell, president of the Weston A Price Foundation “he often wrote about their cheerfulness, optimism, balance and reverence for life.” One of the mainstays of primitive diets is the intake of wholesome saturated fats and fat-soluble activators including vitamins A, D and K2, which Price believed to all directly influence mood. His early field findings are just now being replicated in sophisticated laboratories- and with shockingly concordant results.

Starting the Conversation

In summary, there are countless overlapping psychological, physiological and sociocultural factors that contribute to our behaviors and moods. There is no single cause to blame nor “magic remedy” that will work to unanimously absolve all mental struggles.

However, accumulating research in the field of neuroscience has confirmed that nutrition can significantly impact mental health. It is unfortunate that this piece of the puzzle has been so severely overlooked until now, yet this insight does offer a new hope for improved mental health care going forward. By looking more deeply at the connection between nutrition and mental health, we will find tools for building happier, healthier families— now and for generations to come.

Natural Healing Clinic

To book an appointment with Lazzaro call 604 202 7938



Jun 18, 2019 2 years ago

Solitude–spending time alone. Our mind may or may not be racing, we may or may not be truly be present in the moment

Silence–Being in a state where there is an absence of noise and sound, externally speaking. One isn’t necessarily alone at this time.

We sometimes tell ourselves, “I need some time to myself”. I wonder what people really mean when they think this…do they mean they just want time away from other people (solitude), or do they mean they want some time away from commotion, to have a chance to turn down the volume in life, and experience not only solitude but actual silence? (

This begs the question….HOW does one quiet the mind? We can do so in several ways–by paying attention to our breathing–via meditation, yoga, or even via simple, mindful deep breaths (stopping, breathing from the abdomen, taking a minute or two to just be present).

Music can also help us do this, as can a gentle bath or shower.

We can also attain a level of silence by focusing on something–art, poetry, writing, even physical activity. If we do something we love, we can sometimes experience a silence and serenity that is very powerful.

Something else that I encourage: When we are first getting up in the AM, or laying down to sleep in the PM–take a few moments to be silent, breathe calmly and deeply, and appreciate the good things you have in your life. I also make it a point to read something inspiring, comforting, or hopeful during the first and last moments of each day. I’m convinced that this helps us set a positive tone for our day and for our rest. I believe that this ritual also cultivates serenity, a highly related concept!

One other question: WHY should we take time for silence in our lives? The benefits are many: (

It allows us to reflect on our lives in a way that we cannot do when we are busy and there is noise around us

It gives us a greater sense of awareness of self and our environment

It can help us become more creative. When we are less invested in controlling our mind, creative and resourceful things bubble up in our minds

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you find that the experience of silence brings up painful issues for you, and/or creates more anxiety, sadness, etc. rather than doing anything good for you, I strongly encourage you to consult with a mental health professional! l can help you work through these issues and gain a greater level of serenity.

To book an appointment call Lazzaro at 604 202 7938


Jun 18, 2019 2 years ago