As someone who’s had to live with bouts of anxiety and depression since my teens, I know how hard it can be for the people closest to me.
Because they don’t always know how to help me, it hurts them to see me in such a state. When I suffer, they suffer.
So, if you have someone with anxiety in your life, I’m going to give you some tips for loving them that will make things easier for both of you.
Let’s jump right in:
1) Read up on anxiety
It’s important to educate yourself about anxiety so that you can understand what your partner is going through.
Go to the public library and check out some psychology textbooks or browse the web and its inexhaustible amount of information (just make sure you can trust your sources).
You wanna make sure to learn as much as you can about anxiety – what causes it, what the symptoms are, and what you can do to support your loved one.
2) Listen without judgment
Pay attention because this is super important.
I know it’s easy to get frustrated when the person you love suffers from anxiety and doesn’t react in a “logical way”.
I get it.
You probably feel like telling your partner, “Get over it” or “Snap out of it”.
But while doing that may give you some momentary relief, it will only make your partner feel worse than they already do.
Think about it: On top of their anxiety, the person they love doesn’t understand them and is fed up with them!
So here’s what you should do instead: Listen without judgment. Validate your partner’s feelings and be there for them when they want to open up.
Understand that we’re not anxious on purpose and that if we could simply “snap out of it”, we would!
3) Be patient
Loving someone with anxiety requires a lot of patience.
You see, it could take a while for their anxiety to pass. You may find that waiting for your partner to get better is both exhausting and overwhelming.
The best way to deal with it is to be patient.
It’s also important to know that while for some people anxiety is a temporary problem, for others, it’s a recurrent mental health issue that is often combined with depression – despite therapy and even medication – and can follow them throughout their lives.
Just letting you know what you can expect.
4) Practice self-care
Because it can be so overwhelming to deal with someone who suffers from anxiety, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself.
That means taking breaks to center yourself and doing things that relax you and recharge your batteries.
So, don’t neglect your friends and hobbies just because your partner is going through a rough time. Be there for them but also do something for yourself from time to time.
If you don’t, things may get a little too much for you and you risk becoming angry, frustrated, and even resentful toward your partner.
5) Get help
First of all, if the anxiety is not going away or getting better, you should encourage your partner to speak to a therapist. This is especially important if their anxiety is recurrent.
A therapist can help them get to the root of their anxiety so they can start to deal with it. They can also teach them different coping techniques so that the anxiety doesn’t interfere with their everyday life.
The other thing you can do is consult a relationship coach to get advice on how to navigate the situation.
Relationship Hero is a popular website with dozens of highly trained and experienced professionals to choose from. Many of their coaches have degrees in psychology which means that they’re aware of what anxiety does to an individual and to a couple.
You don’t have to do this alone, get help now.
6) Respect their boundaries
It’s vital to acknowledge your partner’s needs without judgment or criticism and be careful not to add to their anxiety.
So, how can you make sure that you respect their boundaries?
- Recognize when your partner needs space or time alone to manage their anxiety. Don’t try to push them out of their comfort zone and don’t make them feel guilty about it.
- If your partner has triggers that make their anxiety worse – like crowded rooms or airplanes – then help them avoid these triggers or find ways to cope.
- Finally, as I mentioned before, be flexible. This means allowing them to cancel plans or take time for themselves when they feel overwhelmed, without taking it personally or trying to convince them to do something they’re not comfortable with.
7) Celebrate small victories
The truth is that for someone with anxiety, sometimes even small tasks can be difficult to accomplish.
That’s why it is important to acknowledge progress and celebrate all accomplishments, no matter how small.
Here are some examples of small victories to celebrate:
- Going to a big social event despite feeling anxious
- Going a full day without having a panic attack
- Speaking up in a room full of people
- Completing a challenging task despite feeling overwhelmed
8) Be flexible
You need to be willing to adjust or change your plans to accommodate your partner’s needs.
For example, maybe you made plans to go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend with some friends. But on the evening before you’re supposed to leave, your partner starts to get very anxious.
I’m talking about increased heart rate, sweating, hyperventilation, and possibly even a full-on panic attack.
They’ll tell you that they no longer feel up to going away for the weekend (I’ve done this to my husband more than once).
So what can you do?
If you try to force them, you’ll only make them feel trapped and the anxiety will get worse.
The best thing is to apologize to your friends and agree to join them another time, or, if your partner insists, to go on the trip without them. It’s possible that they just need a time-out and they’ll feel better in a few days.
9) Don’t take their anxiety personally
Seriously, don’t do it.
People will experience a variety of different symptoms and emotionally, they may be all over the place.
That’s why it’s important to keep reminding yourself that their anxiety is a disorder – it’s not something that they have because of you and it’s not something they’re “doing” to you.
10) Stay positive
It won’t do anyone any good if you were to fall apart or start to radiate negativity.
What your anxious partner needs is someone to love them, support them, and stay strong for them.
They need to know that everything will be alright – that’s why you need to stay positive.
And guess what? Part of your positivity is bound to rub off on them.