While pretty much everyone experiences the occasional bout of anxiety, having a diagnosed anxiety disorder is a totally different beast. It’s related to chemicals (or lack of chemicals) in the brain and it’s not easy to control. In fact, it can completely take over someone’s life. If your partner is dealing with this mental health condition and you’re not familiar with dealing with it yourself, it can be difficult to know what to do. How do you talk to them? What should you say? What should you do or not do? Here’s how to help a partner with anxiety to feel supported.
Learn as much as you can. The first step to helping someone with anxiety is to become educated about it. Anxiety is a mental health condition and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The more you know about it, though, the easier it will be to give your partner the kind of support that they need.
Communicate. Just because one technique for helping someone with anxiety was helpful for one person, it doesn’t mean that it will help another person. There are many reasons that someone may experience anxiety and there are just as many ways they can deal with it. Each person is an individual, thus the situation is unique. Someone with anxiety might not always be able to tell you what they need, but you can ask them, “When I did this, how did that make you feel?”
Don’t put pressure on them. When you’re talking about their anxiety, your partner can feel pressured to do better and be better. They might think they need to give you the “right” answers. Reassure your partner that you can talk about it as little or as much as they are comfortable with. You may have to get used to having several unfinished conversations in small periods of time before you can come to any conclusions.
Let them lead the way. Never insist that you know better than your partner does. Through words and actions, you will learn how to change your pace, use certain language, and work with them in the manner that suits them best.
Create routines. Day-to-day simplicity can often help someone with anxiety. If they know what to expect, they may feel more prepared to deal with the situation. Mealtimes, bedtimes, and other parts of the day can occur with regularity. Once routines are established, you can help your partner with anxiety modify routines in small ways so they can feel comfortable.
Learn about love languages and attachment styles. Each person has a preferred style that helps them feel loved and keeps them calm. Attachment styles and love languages are individual to each person. What are your partner’s preferences? What are yours? Talk about how the two of you can work together to create a loving and secure environment for both of you.
Watch them. Sometimes it can be difficult for a person with anxiety to tell someone what causes that anxiety or what helps the anxiety go away. Putting it into words is challenging. If you watch them though, you’ll start to see patterns. Maybe clutter in the bedroom makes them anxious. Spontaneous plans can be challenging for others. Everyone is unique, but if you’re observant, you can often pick up on things that they didn’t even notice.
Never stop asking them if they want to do things. If you stop asking them if they want to go out, have visitors, or even play a game, they will feel like you’ve given up on them. Always give them the option to be included, but don’t make them feel bad if they don’t want to join in. Consider planning activities on a smaller scale so they can be included often.
Lectures don’t help. Your partner knows that their anxiety is hard for you, too. They don’t want to make life difficult for you, so never lecture them. Make sure to let them know you know they’re doing the best they can.
Remember to care for yourself. This is critical. If your mental or physical health starts to suffer, you won’t be able to take care of your partner’s needs or help them deal with their anxiety. You must remember to live. Go out with friends. Confide in someone trustworthy. Exercise and eat properly. Besides the fact that these are good for you, it sets a good example for your partner and encourages them to do the same.