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“Sometimes it may be better to simply ask what type of support someone prefers” With Dr. William Seeds & Ania Wysocka

Sometimes it may be better to simply ask what type of support someone prefers, rather than take a guess at what they need. You’d be surprised at how open people can be when talking about how they feel, even when they feel anxious. Don’t pressure them, but ask what they need and what you can […]

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Sometimes it may be better to simply ask what type of support someone prefers, rather than take a guess at what they need. You’d be surprised at how open people can be when talking about how they feel, even when they feel anxious. Don’t pressure them, but ask what they need and what you can do to support them. Sometimes all they want to hear from you is that you are there for them, and that you will get through this together.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ania Wysocka.

Ania Wysocka is the founder of Rootd — the #1 rated mobile app for anxiety & panic attack relief of iOS and Google Play. Ania designed and created Rootd’s complete content, and has led it to over 300,000 users in over 100 countries. In this article Ania shares her top tips for managing anxiety during stressful times and shares free premium access to the Rootd app with our readers.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I started Rootd due to personal experience with anxiety. When I was struggling, my first instinct was to reach for my phone to find a resource that could help me process what was happening. Unfortunately, there were very few apps in this area available at the time, and the ones that did exist either had unwelcoming design or limited content. Other traditional forms of help were too expensive for me on my student budget.

Over time I found that reading clinical research and the work of professionals really helped me, and I wanted to extend that to others in an engaging, interactive, and affordable (free) way. Though I still have a habit of carrying heavy books with me everywhere I go, like most of my peers, my phone is almost always on me — extremely accessible. I knew this was where I wanted Rootd to exist as a resource.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Rootd is fortunate to have gained some really great media coverage in the past, and this results in a lot of messages landing in our inbox — ranging from truly inspirational user stories, to amazing partnership opportunities, to pretty outrageous spam.

Fairly often, people will email asking questions without explaining who they are or why they are asking, and I never find out what ever happens with my responses. This happened again several months ago, however this time I was left with an unexplainable feeling that this time was different, but I had no way of knowing for sure.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was at a store picking up some essentials and I saw the latest special edition of Time Magazine by the till, and it was titled “The Age of Anxiety”. I thought about how an entire issue of Time Magazine dedicated to anxiety is exactly the type of widespread stigma-batting attention panic attacks and anxiety deserve, and picked up a copy for myself. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I started flipping through the pages and found they had a section dedicated to “Apps for Managing Anxiety” — and Rootd was there, named and described, on a page in Time Magazine! A complete, very welcome surprise, and certainly an unexpected and interesting experience.

I’ve also had a lot of fun and interesting experiences meeting amazing people at conferences, and watching their reaction when instead of a business card I hand them a sticker that’s just the big disgruntled face of Rootd’s blue monster mascot Ron. Our website is listed in tiny font on the bottom corner of the sticker, so it works well enough!

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I think avoiding burnout and thriving requires a multi-faceted approach, and there are plenty of tips I would recommend (found below), but firstly I would advise colleagues to check in with themselves from time to time. Take a breath, and see how you’re feeling. Take note when you need to step back from a project in order to avoid burnout before you get where you want to go!

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

In general, I would recommend imagining the type of work environment you would love to work in, and then aiming to recreate elements of that for your company and team.

One more specific suggestion, is to not hesitate to have honest and upfront conversations with your team. Especially in the early days of working for a company, most people are quite eager to make a good impression on their “leader”, and as a result are more likely to avoid sharing their true feelings if they aren’t 100% comfortable or 100% in agreement. You can miss out on a lot of valuable input if team members are acting in this way, so make an effort to demonstrate that you earnestly care about how they really feel and that you truly value their opinion (even if it contradicts yours). One method for helping people feel comfortable with this is by showing vulnerability yourself first — lead by example by demonstrating to them the level of communication you hope to share.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I really enjoyed reading “‘Tis” by Frank McCourt. Though Frank didn’t always make the right choices, he defied a lot of odds and overcame significant childhood challenges. He had a knack for beautiful storytelling and did so with a sense of humour and authenticity which I admire. I enjoy and believe in sharing an authentic experience, which means not always brushing over the difficult things, and showing the ugly parts of life as well as the good parts.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

1) Journal about the good things that have happened to you during the day.

Our minds are attracted to sensation, both positive and negative, but unfortunately the negative sensations tend to win. To change this pattern of negative thought, we have to create new patterns. Taking some time out of each day (preferably in the morning as that will help set your thoughts for the day) to note what good things happened to you the day before. As you then go about your day, you will start noticing the good things more than you may have before. For example, you may appreciate getting a great parking spot more, or hearing a compliment from a friend. There are plenty of good things we brush over because life can be overwhelming and daunting. Reminding ourselves of the little positive things helps us handle everything else better too.

2) Journal about the things you’ve done well during the day.

This one isn’t to be mistaken with the previous one — write about what YOU’VE done well that day! Our confidence grows alongside our trust in our judgement and actions. Remind yourself of the things you actually did well, rather than focusing on mistakes or failures. This isn’t to say not to learn amazing things from your mistakes, but to make a conscious effort to focus on what you did right too. When I have a difficult day I still note the little things I did well, like taking time to stretch, or even making my bed, or walking to work, or replying to a difficult email. I try to take more time with the big things too, to really let it sink in.

3) Create an exercise routine.
There are so many benefits to getting a good sweat daily. Your body and your mind will thank you.

4) Spend less time watching and consuming the news.
We are inundated with news and marketing in all shapes and forms during our lives. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I try to have a night with no TV, social media, or news. This isn’t to be ignorant about world events around me, but to give myself a break from feeling helpless about things that are going on. I have to consciously remember what’s good around me to feel strong enough to impact the rest of the world. This helps me refocus back to where I am in life, and instead of being online I read, talk to my partner, and try to really “be” in the space around me.

5) Breathe deeply.
Studies show that deep breathing can help provide relief from pain, high blood pressure, stress, depression, headaches, and anxiety. Many anxiety sufferers are inverted breathers — meaning they breathe through their chest rather than down into their stomach. To see if you’re an inverted breather, place one hand on your lower abdomen, and one on your chest. Close your eyes and take a few breaths. If you pull in your stomach and feel your chest expand when you inhale, you may be an inverted breather. If you’re a deep breather, the hand on your stomach area will rise higher than the hand on your chest on inhale.

The good news is that you can adjust your body and mind to deep breathing within a relatively short period of time. The important thing is to practice consistently, and many people really feel some amazing changes and reductions in anxiety simply by breathing deeply each day. The Rootd app has some guided exercises dedicated to deep breathing, or you can practice on your own too.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

1) Listen.
As humans we dislike hearing that someone we love or care about is hurting. We are quick to share our perspective and opinions when they share how they might be anxious or suffering. And I also think we like hearing our own voice 😉 I would suggest taking time to actually listen to the person that is sharing with us and holding our opinions at first to let them fully express themselves. This creates a safe place where they feel they can release some of their thoughts and feelings.

2) Lend a helping hand.
See what aspects of the given situation are making them most anxious. With COVID-19 some Rootd users shared with me that it was the increased pressure of having kids at home being added to their regular responsibilities. In this case, even offering to watch someone’s children or finding a way to help them with other tasks and errands (like delivering groceries or dropping off food). These simple acts have been made more complex during COVID-19, but there are safe and sanitary ways of doing them that can make a big difference in someone’s day.

3) Connect them to resources.
Have you experienced feeling anxious yourself? What resources helped you then? There were many companies and groups that were quick to respond to COVID-19. Governments and community groups created lists of mental health support tools to offer peace and solace to people that were feeling anxious. At Rootd we began offering free access to our premium plans and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Direct your loved ones to the resources that have helped you most.

4) Educate yourself on anxiousness and anxiety.
Learning about where anxiety comes from, how it manifests, and what you can do to challenge and manage it will help you better be able to support your loved ones. You can accomplish this by reading about anxiety, downloading an app like Rootd, or even attending a counselling session with your loved one (if you are very close and they are open to that, of course!). Educating yourself helps reduce stigma around anxiety, and also means that you are less likely to say the “wrong” thing when your loved one is experiencing anxiety. Acknowledge what they’re going through, and remind them of their strength, value, and perseverance.

5) Keep in mind that we are all different.
Sometimes it may be better to simply ask what type of support someone prefers, rather than take a guess at what they need. You’d be surprised at how open people can be when talking about how they feel, even when they feel anxious. Don’t pressure them, but ask what they need and what you can do to support them. Sometimes all they want to hear from you is that you are there for them, and that you will get through this together.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

The Rootd app would be my number one choice, of course! 🙂 It’s been researched, written, designed, and made with love by someone who has direct experience with panic attacks and anxiety.

Other resources would be to speak directly to a counsellor or therapists. I recommend connecting with them even before things feel serious or dire. There’s simply so much benefit from speaking with a professional about how you’re feeling!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“This too shall pass”. I’ve had plenty of difficult experiences through which this quote has been relevant to me, including experiencing anxiety and panic attacks myself!

This is pretty directly related to COVID-19 as well. For most people, the scariest part about COVID-19 is the unknown, and the change it caused in people’s routines and schedules. But as humans we adapt, and we get used to the new realities we face. The difficult part passes, we find solutions to keep improving, and adjust to a “new normal”.

“This too shall pass” is relevant during each anxiety-inducing part of the process.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would encourage people to talk about what they are experiencing, good and bad.

Research shows that anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America, and the most common mental health diagnosis among students. Sadly, embarrassment, fear of stigma, and a lack of open conversations contributes to over half of those suffering never seeking treatment.

Rootd is there for people who don’t feel comfortable talking about their anxiety and panic attacks (yet), because it is discreet and always available on-demand. Once people go through the in-app lessons, they see reasons to share and are able to continue growing through sharing (still with boundaries when appropriate). I’d love to inspire more and more people to discover the value in being open about this.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

I’ve made full access to the Rootd app completely free during COVID-19, and everyone is welcome to claim this offer, and get some extra support with any anxiety they may be feeling during these extraordinary times, at https://covid19response.rootd.io/

We also have an amazing and growing community on Instagram @rootd_app, and users can download the app by searching for “Rootd” on the App Store and Google Play.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you very much for your great questions 🙂

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