Living with an anxious person
We’ve probably all experienced anxiety at some point, maybe because we are expecting a difficult interview with our boss or are worried about a sick relative. Or it may be that we have learned to respond to certain triggers in an anxious way. You know the physical effects: increased blood pressure, racing heart, sweaty palms or runaway thoughts. Many of us have coping strategies for these situations: sport, exercise, meditation – whatever works for us. But how do you cope when it is someone else’s anxiety; that of a partner or sibling?
Understanding that an anxious person isn’t always thinking about the downside of everything all the time can be a good start; anxiety does not equate to negativity. Deep down, people who are prone to anxious thinking are usually appreciative and hopeful. Anxiety is only one trait and not a whole persona. An empathetic approach is most helpful; try to see things from their viewpoint.
First and foremost it is not about apportioning blame or responsibility; it is not your fault, nor theirs that they are anxious, so don’t feel responsible. Your anxious relative or spouse has to find their own coping mechanisms, like you do if or when you experience anxious thoughts. It will be obvious that everything is not OK with them so don’t ask them if it is! Instead, try to be compassionate and assure them you are there if they need you.
If they are having a panic attack for instance, stay calm and let them handle their anxiety, don’t hassle them or tell them to ‘pull themselves together’ – they are already feeling stressed and worried, so be supportive; even though anxious thoughts are seldom rational, it isn’t helpful to highlight this; they probably know that already.
Agreeing between you how you’ll alert others in the event of a serious attack is helpful. Such a step is rarely needed, but making a plan with your anxious friend or loved one about how you’ll both cope if anxiety or panic sets in can help to alleviate the anxiety about the anxiety. Above all empathy wins. For the person running an anxious thinking pattern or experiencing its associated symptoms, knowing they are loved and accepted for who they are provides a welcome sense of security.
Many people experiencing anxiety will consult with their GP and some will be referred for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), whilst others will be offered medication. Frequently individuals will opt to find help privately and choose to see a hypnotherapist or other talking therapist. Hypnosis can be very helpful for those with anxious thoughts or behaviour patterns and the mere process of hypnosis can be a very calming experience. Many hypnotherapists will also teach their clients, self-hypnosis, ‘tapping’ or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and mindfulness techniques.
Whichever route is chosen, there is help available to manage or overcome anxious behaviour. It is of course crucial for the person suffering from anxiety to seek the help themselves, as therapy is less likely to be successful if someone feels they have been pressured into it, however well intentioned the encouragement of the friend, partner or family member.