Anxiety shouldn’t be a part of a relationship, but it is. Stop whining about it, and learn to be a better ally.
When it comes to relationships, supporting each other is key, but oftentimes anxiety can complicate things. Maybe their anxiety's new, or perhaps you're growing close enough that you're finally seeing that part of their life. Whatever the case, you might be wondering how you can help.
While it isn’t always easy to be in a relationship with someone with an anxiety disorder, there are things you can do to alleviate the pressure in your partner’s life. As someone who battles anxiety, I’ve been asked many questions on how to support your significant other. I compiled a list of the most common ones, hope this helps!
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist, this is simply my own advice and shouldn’t be used in place of a professional.
Q: They’re fine one minute and the next, they’re spiraling. Is this normal?
Believe it or not, this is COMPLETELY normal. Before you get on my case, I am not saying that having an anxiety disorder is normal. I mean “normal” in regards to the difficult truth of battling anxiety; these spirals are unnaturally “natural”.
I am no stranger to this, sometimes I am totally calm and the next moment my anxiety takes over.
The best thing to do in this situation is to have patience. Your significant other might not know exactly what is triggering them enough to explain it.
Please do not call your partner dramatic! I promise you they aren’t doing this to get your attention.
Patience is a virtue, and let me tell you, in those moments, it will mean the world to your partner. Be patient. All you need to do is be there for them.
Q: How can I assure them they’re in a safe space?
One of the key needs for someone who battles anxiety is a safe space to talk about their feelings. As their partner, it’s your job to support them and most importantly provide them with a space-based on trust.
The best way to show this is through verbal communication.
If you don't know how to bring up a line of communication, start with something small. Ask questions like, "How are you feeling today?" with gentle—but constructive—follow-ups like: "Since I don't see things the way you do, would you be open to talking about it or ways I can help?"
Questions are okay and encouraged, but make sure you're taking the time to shut the fuck up and LISTEN too.
Asking questions and actively listening will allow your partner to feel more comfortable opening up to you and will help them feel like they’re not fighting alone against their anxiety.
Q: The solution to a problem seems so simple, yet they’re anxious about fixing it. How do I help them if they freak out over the answer?
This is a situation I’ve often faced in my relationship. When I’m overcome with anxiety, I’m often unable to see the solution to a problem. My boyfriend becomes frustrated because to him, the answer is simple, but I’m “too busy freaking out” to see it.
Obviously, if their anxiety is turning into an attack or deep spiral, your first priority is to go to those coping mechanisms and help them come down. Don't try and force them to listen to answers or get to a solution, just help them down to a clearer mind.
With that being said, remember you are not their parent. You are there to be a part of their support system. Not to fix them!
You can’t make their decisions for them no matter how much you would like to. After they’ve calmed down, at the end of the day, the choices they make are theirs. Unless you’re ordering food on their behalf, you have to let your partner make their own choices, whether you agree with them or not (as long as it isn’t going to bring them serious harm).
Q: What is the best way to calm them down?
Calming methods are different for everyone, so talk to your partner and find a method that works best for them!
Here are some methods to try out:
Start with some deep breathing. This will allow them to focus on their breathing rather than their triggers. Better yet, do the breathing with your partner—you two are a team! Take five deep breaths with them.
When I’m having an anxiety-driven meltdown, the most effective way to calm me down is going on a drive. Obviously, I’m never the one driving—safety first friends! My anxiety makes it difficult to separate my thoughts from reality, and I’ve found removing myself from a specific environment makes it much easier to come down.
Taking a drive might not be for everyone, but I highly recommend giving it a shot!
Q: Sometimes it frustrates me when I don’t know what triggers their anxiety. Should I talk to them about this? Or keep it to myself?
In case you haven’t gotten the idea by now, if your partner is near spiraling, hold off on sharing your frustration. I know this may be difficult but now is not the time.
As frustrated as you might be with their anxiety disorder, so are they!
Sit with your frustration and figure out where it stems from.
If you’re frustrated because you want to help, but are struggling because you don’t know how, express this. Make sure you’re both in a calm mindset and just talk about how you both feel.
Remember, it’s you guys vs. anxiety, not you vs. them.
If the frustration is coming from personal irritation or ire at them (for something they can't control) then you may need to reevaluate if being in that relationship is truly the best thing for both of you.
Q: Are there small things I can do to help alleviate some of their anxiety?
YES!!! There are so many small/simple things you can do for your partner.
Positive words of affirmation can also play a key role in alleviating your partner's anxiety. It could be as simple as saying “I love you and I’m here for you” or “you aren’t alone.” These are easy ways to reassure your partner.
Physical touch and reassuring gestures of affection work great to remind them they have a support team in you! It seems small, but from personal experience, a tight hug from my boyfriend worked wonders on a rough day.
It is important to remember that not everyone is comfortable being touched!! Sometimes it makes a person even more anxious when they are spiraling. Communicate with your partner!!! Ask what you can do in these moments. It can make the world of a difference.
Q: Helping my partner with their anxiety has started impacting my own mental health. Is it wrong if I need a break?
It’s totally okay if you need a break! You aren’t any help to your significant other if you’re not in a good headspace!
You’re allowed to step back from any situation that causes you emotional strain, even when it involves your significant other.
It’s okay to be honest if your mental health is suffering. Don’t try to hide the things that are bothering you. Your feelings are valid, regardless of what anyone else thinks or feels.
Just because your partner is going through a tough time does not mean you can’t be too.
I’m not saying don’t help them, just don’t be afraid to take a moment if your partner’s anxiety becomes too overwhelming for you.
Take care of yourself!
~Trust the good vibes and spread all the love