Finding your people – a guide to starting a DIY anxiety support group

Recently, I posted a page called “Finding Help” which talks about the steps to finding a great therapist. But, maybe you’re more of a self help kind of person and just want a community of people who you can talk to openly about life, including anxiety. Pull up a chair and let’s talk!

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A few years ago, I invited some fellow Anxiety Girls to work through Reid Wilson’s book “Don’t Panic” and set exposure goals for ourselves. There’s just something about being accountable to someone else that helps with goal setting in any arena. It’s also comforting to talk with people who really get it.  My sister-in-law & I joke that it’s nice to have people with whom you can let your crazy out. Because whether or not you can see it . . . we all have a little crazy.

We met for coffee every other week, at first, to discuss the book and our goals.  As we got more comfortable and grew in our relationships, we hit the roads to do some exposure work together – highways, bridges, traveling distances were all part of our repertoire.

The group joined me as I drove highway routes and bridges that bothered me.  Another time, we literally drove back and forth across the same bridge for 45 minutes, coaching and cheering on another Anxiety Girl as she faced her fears.

Life has gotten busy, though, and there are times where we don’t meet for months. That’s just the way it goes.  But, it never seems to fail that one of us sends a a catch up email or text.

This past winter, we sat down in the hopefulness of a new year and imagined doing something big like an Anxiety Girl road trip. Laughing, we envisioned a reality show based on our superheroes. Anxiety girls take off cross country in an RV, armed only with a GoPro camera, travel journals and lots of snacks. By the time we got to the west coast, surely we would be anxiety free!

One of us said, “Yes! That sounds amazing – AND – what steps can we take right now to work toward something bigger?  What if we started with a smaller road trip? You know, just for the day? Getting out of town would target highway driving & traveling distances, while we got to spend time together. And maybe we could go for a hike & grab brunch.” A month later, two of us took that trip! We both had moments of high anxiety and had a fabulous time!

In the future, we’re hoping to plan an adventure by plane or train.  Or maybe we’ll take that cross country trip. Who knows? You may find us riding roller coasters & sky diving this time next year. 🙂

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So, getting back to you . . .

Are you finding yourself facing anxiety alone and wanting community? Maybe it’s time to gather a few friends and start your own DIY anxiety support group.

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my first attempt. I gathered some folks together many years ago to work through a workbook. It was great at first, but not everyone worked at the same rate. Some folks wanted to talk but not do the workbook.  Others were uncomfortable hearing about other people’s fears.  Life got busy, then it just fizzled. I really hungered for community, though, so I tried again a few years later and it took.

Here are some tips for getting started:

*If a DIY support group is in your future, start by talking to a few people who are interested in getting together to talk about anxiety.

*If you don’t think you know anyone with anxiety (really?), start by trying to open up the topic (when appropriate), step back and listen. Oftentimes you’ll find an “in” and people are relieved to know they’re not alone.

*Invite people to get together wherever suits – go for a hike, head to a coffee shop, meet out for a drink.

*Share what feels comfortable. Listen. See what people are looking for in a support group. Do your expectations match up?

*Maybe this becomes an anxiety book group. If so, check out the list of books in the menu titled “Bookshelf” for inspiration or find a book that works for your group.

*Maybe this is a goal setting group with regular check ins for accountability.

*Maybe folks just want to get together socially and talk with others who get it.

*And maybe you want to go crazy, get out in the world and do some exposure work together.

Whatever you do, go find your people!  It may take time. It may not take at first. It might be just 2 or 3 of you. That’s ok.  Make the time to get together and support each other. A bigger life is out there waiting for you!

Want to read more about DIY anxiety support groups? Check out this great article by Jessica Spires about how she started an informal support group in a pub. If you’re someone who wants something more formal, check out this thorough guideline on creating peer support groups. And, if you’re just looking for some good self help books, you can start here.