This is a sobering statistic for the myriad individuals who regularly suffer from anxiety. However, if you look beyond the individuals specifically afflicted with anxiety, the numbers also practically assure that everyone knows someone else living with anxiety, too.
If it’s your partner, in particular, who’s living with anxiety, you’re likely well aware of the fact that it can feel helpless standing by. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are several ways that you can be a proactive, supportive, and positive presence for a loved one who is living with anxiety.
Help and Support, But Don’t Fix
One of the first things that you must understand if you’re going to properly help an anxious partner is that you should not set out to “fix” them. This may sound obvious, but if it isn’t in the front of your mind as you try to aid an anxious partner, it’s amazing how quickly you can shift into providing solutions rather than simply offering support.
That’s not to say that you can’t do anything productive or solution-oriented. However, this should always be done to support and help rather than simply get your partner’s stress to “go away.”
For instance, rather than simply telling a partner that they should calm down when they get stressed out about a kid’s messy room, you can look for ways to proactively clean up your kid’s room together. This can provide a calm and encouraging atmosphere for your partner to better manage their anxiety without making them feel like it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
Practice Active Listening and Empathy
Active listening is a bedrock of interpersonal support. If you can’t actively listen to your partner, you’ll never be able to truly meet their needs.
To truly actively listen to your partner, you must put your mind in a state that is focused completely on your partner as they speak. Strive to genuinely understand what they’re saying, comprehend how that affects you and how they feel, and then provide a meaningful, thought-out response.
In addition to active listening, you should also try to practice empathy as you walk through your partner’s challenges together. Don’t minimize their statements or feelings. Use terms like “stressed” rather than “anxiety disorder” when talking to them. Try to see the situation from their perspective. Even the simple act of trying to empathize with them will help cement the bond between you and encourage greater trust and communication.
Encourage Better Self-Care
Self-care is essential for someone managing an anxiety disorder. Exhaustion, malnutrition, and a lack of exercise can all undermine mental health. You can help your partner to participate in basic self-care by encouraging them to:
- Practice good sleep hygiene by trying to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that is tailored to their unique bodily, emotional, and mental needs.
- Get regular exercise both to stay physically healthy and as an additional source of stress relief.
By helping your partner address basic self-care needs like these, you’re supporting their body’s natural ability to remain calm and collected.
Maintain Good Communication
Communication is critical when you live with someone who, in turn, lives with anxiety. The importance of active listening was already addressed, but in this case, the consideration is more focused on how you interact with your partner.
For instance, if you leave work and get stuck in a traffic jam, it’s up to you to proactively consider how this might make your partner feel as they’re waiting for you to get home.
Rather than holding off until they call you, panicked, to see why you haven’t made it home yet, take the time to reach out to them and let them know that you’ll be late. You can even use something like Google’s location-sharing feature to let them know precisely where you are at all times. This can allow them to put any anxious thoughts to rest without calling you every 10 minutes to see if you arrived at your location.
Consider Yourself, Too
Finally, it’s important to think about your own self-care as you attempt to support your loved one. To ensure that your efforts actually help your partner, it’s essential that you take some time for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual maintenance, too. A few suggestions for ways that you can do this are:
- Set expectations: Keep in mind that happiness looks different for different people, and that’s okay. Your partner may not respond to your help in the way that you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can be a form of life-changing support for them.
- Establish your own routines: Morning routines, bedtime routines, work routines, having your own rhythm to life can be an excellent stabilizing factor. It provides structure and security, no matter what is going on around you.
- Live your life: Don’t let your personal life go neglected as you support your partner in managing their anxiety. Make sure to give yourself time to cultivate activities that you’re interested in, even as you help your partner overcome their struggles with stress.
- Tap into some self-care: Much like when you’re working remotely and personal and professional activities begin to overlap, constantly helping a partner with anxiety can sometimes override your personal needs. Combat this by doing things like maintaining morning rituals and routines, staying connected to friends and family, exercising often, eating well, avoiding blue light before bed to help you sleep, and so on.
If you take the time to care for yourself it won’t just help you feel better. It will also ensure that you’re in top condition to step in and help your partner when the need arises.
Helping Your Partner
Coping with anxiety is always overwhelming. Watching a loved one do so can feel helpless and completely out of your control. However, if you take a thoughtful approach, there are many ways that you can support your loved one and help them maintain their mental health.
This can be accomplished in several ways, from actively listening and empathizing to avoiding the need to “fix” them, maintaining good communication, and helping both of you get proper self-care.
The important thing is that you avoid any initial fight-or-flight response to your partner’s anxiety symptoms. Instead of reacting out of fear or confusion, try to approach the situation constructively. The opportunities to help and support will follow from there.
Sleep Health End Note
There is a lot of anxiety and stress in a relationship when a sleep disorder is present. Maybe neither of you is getting good sleep because one of you is snoring all night. Ensure your partner that seeking a snoring solution helps both of you. Snoring is a health indicator that they need to be examined to make sure that they don’t have any hidden health issues.
The tips above can help to make a snoring conversation easier for both of you without people getting their feelings hurt. Remember to be empathetic, informed, patient, and affectionate in your conversation about sleep apnea.
For more, watch Alaska Sleep Clinic on "Moms Everyday" discussing tips on how to talk to your partner about sleep apnea.