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by Alana Gregg, MS

Last week, I talked about four ways to improve anxiety. You can find that post here.

While anxiety is a normal part of life and something we all deal with, some of us struggle more than others. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is, but there are many factors. Our genetics play a big role in our anxiety. If we have family members who are frequently anxious, we are more vulnerable to struggling with it ourselves. Early childhood experiences play another big role, as well as our personality types. Even with the healthiest of childhoods, though, some people are hardwired to be anxious. Odds are, if you are not prone to anxiety, someone you know and love is. So how can you help them when you don’t fully understand what they are going through?

Here are 7 ways to love someone with anxiety.

  1. Don’t say “just relax.” This can be very well meaning when you are trying to calm your loved one down, but it can come off as insensitive. Their bodies may be having a very physical reaction to what they are feeling, and they cannot just turn it off as much as they would like to. Instead, you could remind them to take some deep breaths and then breathe with them so they can copy your calm, steady breathing.
  2. Remember they are not making it up. Some anxiety reactions can seem very intense and extreme. It can almost feel like attention-seeking behavior. That is not to say that some people are not dramatic for attention, but if your loved one truly has anxiety, then their body might be hijacking their mind, making it really hard to respond to stress in a rational way.
  3. Help them know they are not alone. Anxiety can be very isolating, especially when people do not understand what you are going through. It is important to validate what your loved one is feeling, even if you don’t understand.
  4. Ask them what they need from you. They may need you to hug them, give them space, listen and help them organize their thoughts, or just sit with them and say nothing. They may not know what they need in the moment, but they will appreciate that you asked.
  5. Be understanding. Odds are, they don’t mean to yell or ask for reassurance for the tenth time. But their minds are telling them that is what they need to do. Try your best to be patient and give them space to feel whatever it is they are feeling.
  6. Set boundaries. Being understanding does not mean allowing someone to abuse you. It is ok to tell them when they are hurting you, or walk away when you feel like they are taking their anxiety out on you.
  7. Take care of yourself. Like putting on your oxygen mask first on an airplane, you cannot help someone breathe if you cannot breathe. That means taking a walk or asking for alone time if necessary. Doing things to recharge your battery will keep you healthy and also keep you from growing resentful of your loved one.

Anxiety Treatment in Ambler, PA

As much as you want to help your loved one, you cannot control your loved one’s feelings. You can love them and support them as best as you can, but you cannot be their sole source of comfort either. Encourage your loved one to talk to a trained counselor if necessary. At Lime Tree Counseling in Ambler, PA, we offer anxiety therapy with trained counselors who understand how anxiety can take over your life.

Start Marriage Counseling in Pennsylvania

Loving someone with anxiety can be exhausting if you feel like you always need to be the strong steady one. But no one can be strong and steady all the time. We all need moments where we can be honest about our struggles. If you need support or a safe space to unload, please call Lime Tree Counseling today. You don’t need to carry this burden alone. We also offer online counseling in order to meet your needs from home. If you feel like anxiety has become the third person in your relationship, we also offer marriage counseling, where we can teach you how to talk to each other about what you’re feeling so both of you can get your needs met. Contact us today to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation.