Anxiety. Most of us have been there: an issue that–to the outside world–seems arguably small balloons into a crushing, suffocating weight. Our hearts race. Our palms sweat. We descend into a spiraling panic, and find that it’s difficult (and even hopeless) to stop the feeling of dread building inside our chests.
Most of us know what anxiety feels like when it’s happening to us, but it can be difficult to know how to help someone we love when they are being riddled with it. It’s easy to feel at a loss, not knowing what to do or say. Can’t they just get over it, already?
Unfortunately, it’s easiest to write off a spouse’s anxiety and come up short when it comes to offering comfort and help. So today, we’re sharing tips for helping your husband or wife overcome the panic monster when it attacks.
Soothe your spouse and listen to his/her fears.
When your spouse is in the throes of anxiety, it can be difficult to relate to the things that are bothering him or her. In fact, it may seem impossible to you. But it’s critically important to lend an ear and offer comfort to your spouse anyway, regardless of whether you can identify with his/her turmoil.
Encourage your spouse to talk to you about what’s upsetting them. Sometimes a person who is in a state of panic can calm down on their own if they talk about their worries.
If you can do anything to alleviate your spouse’s most pressing sense of panic, do it. Help him/her find ways to calm his/her body and mind. If the anxiety can be lessened, your spouse has a better chance of clearing their mind and approaching the issue from a calmer place.
Don’t tell your spouse to “just get over it.”
Panic and anxiety are driven by emotions, and even though an anxious person’s brain might be telling them one thing, their emotions are communicating a sense of urgency (and potentially danger) that they feel has to be resolved immediately. It’s classic fight-or-flight.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for anxiety and panic. Telling your spouse to “get over” whatever is upsetting them is just going to make the situation worse. Instead, show empathy and determine what you can do to help.
- If your spouse is feeling anxious about a decision that needs to be made, help him/her walk through the options, examining the pros and cons as a team.
- If work is making your spouse anxious or panicked, sit down and talk together about why, and explore possible solutions.
- If your spouse’s anxiety is rooted in matters at home or with family, see where you can pitch in and help.
- If the anxiety is uncontrollable and has disrupted your spouse’s (or your, or your family’s) quality of life, gently encourage him/her to seek professional help.
If the problem is complex and out of control, don’t be afraid to seek help. But if it’s something you can find a solution for between the two of you, all the better.
De-stress and unwind–deliberately.
If anxiety has had a hold on your life, focus on ways the two of you can unwind and find peace. Seeking out pleasurable activities and having fun together will boost your sense of well-being (and your intimacy, which is a huge bonus!).
The panic monster can be a hard one to beat, but by working together and focusing on ways to alleviate your spouse’s anxiety, it can be done. As you help your spouse deal with his/her feelings of panic, remember that most everyone experiences difficult seasons like this at some point. Armed with understanding, patience, empathy, and love, you can overcome this together.
Have you or your spouse dealt with crippling anxiety? How did you help–or, how did your spouse help you? We’d love to hear your stories. Share them below.
Les and Leslie,
Once again you are spot on. Further, the problem of chronic anxiety is only becoming more prevalent in our fast-paced world. If we can learn to be a place of safety and comfort for our spouses, we can take something awful and use it to bring us closer as a couple.
My wife has white-coat-fright. We talk at length. Most people are able to reach down into their conscious selves and communicate with that deep spirit that dwells in most souls. My psychologist helped me say- stop it- when the panic occurs. Sometime some of us forget the strengths in the homo sapien. Another way to keep the past and present from crippling oneself is to practice saying “that’s old-DROP IT.” Dropping the past and accepting the present is one of the benefits of Cognative Behavioral Therapy. The do-it- your self gang can really use it to combat illusions and delusions
Great article! My wife is in the Air Force and I deal with anxiety every time we move. It’s mainly related to my career path. It’s hard to have a career as a military spouse when you move every 1-3 years. We’re currently in the middle of a move right now and I just left my dream job where I worked in sports and recreation ministry at our church in Georgia. This move has been particularly tough because I felt like that job was my calling. However, through it all my wife has never once told me to “get over it.” On the contrary, she offers the patience, understanding, empathy, and love that you described in the article. Although the anxiety of not knowing what God has in store for me and my family next is still there, my wife’s support and encouragement are a huge difference maker. I always feel like she is in my corner and has my back no matter what I’m going through. My prayer is that I can do the same thing for her. I definitely plan to be intentional at our new assignment about de-stressing and unwinding as a couple. Thanks so much for the well written and well-timed article.
Checked out Suzanne Jesse’s book, 7 Steps to Escape Anxiety
What a great article! As a husband of a wife who has struggled with anxiety on and off through the last 26 years of our 37 years of marriage I have picked up a couple of tips that work for us. 1. Look at them when talking through their anxiety. This shows you care and can even help them release pent up emotions. Remember the eyes are the lamp to the soul. 2. Touch is essential. Depending on your spouses physical touch comfort level. The touch of the hand a stoke on the arm or just a hug-hold communicates security and protection. It can even let them know that you can share their load. 3. Just be with them. Sometimes they don’t need anything but to know that they are not alone. I’m not talking abut doing things together or business together. Just sitting with them or being in the same room can be encouraging. 4. Be careful not to be to caught up in your own activities that you ignore them. Sometimes we want to hide in activities so we do not have to deal with their anxiety. And 5. Have someone you can share with. Not gossip to or complain too, but someone who can encourage you when you feel burdened and alone. Because we love our spouse we can take on their load and then we end up needing a burden lifted. A friend can stick closer than a brother. Just to be clear I am talking about your friend not your spouses friend.
These are some of the things I have done in addition to what the article suggested and they work.
These tips are SO helpful! Thank you so very much!
Great article! Few people’s jobs are secure these days and living with uncertainly for months on end creates anxiety in and my husband. Some useful tips.
This article is very timely as my husband struggles w anxiety. We’re in the midst of a period now. 2 days ago, when he was sharing e me his feelings, I admit, my fist thoughts were “here we go again”. I didn’t say that of course but that’s not the right attitude.
I have been at a lost bc I do feel overwhelmed w my own full plate. My brain is full of- What on earth can I say new?!? Why now? Please pull yourself together, I need support too!
These practical tips are exactly what I need bc I’m so exhausted and sleep deprived, I don’t know what to do.
Unfortunately, anxiety has been a part of our lives far too often. I have a sense of guilt at times about that because as a Christian I know God is there for us and I feel I am not having faith in his care and provision as I should. At these times I feel the most comforted by reading a devotional/bible. Somehow God always points me to the right words that I need and strengthens more for the day.
As a couple we have learned to do things that are uplifting. Going to church, riding our tandem bike around town, doing errands together, meals together and of course physical intimacy is very important to promote love and closeness. We have also learned to protect our lives by not taking on more than we can handle outside of our allotted work/home/family responsibilities. We made this mistake when we were younger as there are so many things you feel need to be “accomplished” or that you should be involved in. As we have aged we’ve tried to simplify and learned to say “no” so that we have time to just sit, rest, read and relax and not always be running like a hamster on a wheel, We’ve protected ourselves from technology and use it sparingly so that we can focus on people.
A friend told me something important that sticks with me. Just to “listen”.
I suffered from anxiety last summer that was brought on by stress. I took it before the Lord and He impressed on my heart to sing praises to Him. I started singing hymns out loud to God, focusing on Him and what a difference it made. I no longer have the shortness of breath and the waking up gasping for air. Now I “sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free!”
Magnesium deficiency can play a huge role in anxiety. Helped me tremendously. A high number of the population is deficient so worth looking into.