Is your spouse experiencing anxiety? Wondering how to help?
One in 13 people experience anxiety worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). So if your spouse is experiencing anxiety, he or she is not alone.
People who live with anxiety–whether chronic or situational–need emotional support from those closest to them. That means it’s critical for you to know exactly how to help your spouse through anxiety.
We’ve pulled together 8 ways to help your spouse if they’re having anxious thoughts or feelings. Let’s dive in.
1. Just listen.
Anxiety is a slow build of churning thoughts and fears that eventually reaches a fever pitch–that is, if the fears are never expressed. It’s important to encourage your spouse to talk to you about what they’re feeling. Then, listen.
People who experience anxiety are often self-conscious of talking about what they’re feeling. If your spouse is expressing anxious thoughts, chances are he or she has been holding these thoughts and feelings in for a very long time. Once your spouse works up the courage to talk with you, it’s crucial for you to let them speak freely.
2. Offer possible solutions (if you’re asked).
Many of us are “fixers”–we want to help and provide solutions that will fix a potential problem. The thing is, people who are feeling anxious don’t always want an immediate fix. In fact, they know it may not be possible to fix the problem right away. Instead, they may just want to get their worries off their chest.
Still, you can offer possible solutions to your spouse…if you’re asked for ideas. Otherwise, it might be best to let them take the lead on asking for help. Try saying something like, “Is there any way I can help you right now?”, or, “Would you like some suggestions?”
3. Be present.
If your spouse is feeling anxious, he or she may want you to simply be present. Your presence can go a long way toward offering comfort when your spouse is feeling fearful.
If you have anxiety yourself, it may be difficult for you to share space without your anxiety becoming triggered. Even so, you need one another. Take steps toward caring for yourself so that you can be physically present for your spouse when they need you to be there.
4. Don’t shame.
Anxiety can cause us to overthink things and to be irrational. Your spouse likely understands that they could be experiencing some level of irrationality in the midst of anxiety. If that’s the case, your job is to listen and respond to them without shaming.
You can gently, lovingly respond to your spouse’s fears with alternate scenarios and ideas. Opening up possibilities might help them to visualize better outcomes.
5. Offer comfort.
Whether it’s verbal or physical, offering comfort to your spouse is paramount when they’re experiencing anxiety. Be with them in solidarity and help them know they’re not alone.
If your spouse has specific go-to comfort measures that make them feel better on a hard day, help them seek those out. If their anxiety is so intense that they can’t self-soothe, try to provide those comforts for them. For example, maybe a warm bath helps your spouse unwind. If they’re feeling immobilized by anxiety, prepare a bath for them.
6. Don’t say, “Calm down!”
If you tell an anxious person to “just calm down”, it is not likely to help them feel better–instead, it will probably upset them more. Avoid urging your spouse to calm down, and avoid minimizing their fears. Even if you don’t share the same worries, honor theirs and let them know you hear them.
7. Share happy things.
When appropriate, share things with your spouse that make them smile. Does your spouse enjoy a good book, funny cat videos, or a thoughtful gift now and then? When they’re feeling better, share things that are likely to make them smile. Cultivate a happy environment to help buoy them through this season.
8. Remind them this isn’t forever.
Whatever is causing your spouse’s anxiety, it can be helpful to remind them that this season won’t last forever. Situations will resolve, emotions will calm, and difficult times will get better. Just remind them to hold on, and that you’re with them every step of the way.
If your spouse’s anxiety is debilitating or making it difficult to function in everyday life, it may be time to seek professional help. Encourage your spouse to see a professional counselor for additional support if this is the case.
Want to enrich your relationship with your spouse? Our Better Love Assessment is designed to help husbands and wives get to know each other on a deeper level. The ability to relate better to each other will carry you through many aspects of your life together, especially when you’re facing tough times (and the anxiety that goes along with them). Get started here.
Does your spouse experience anxiety? Do you? How do you help one another through it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.