This is a guest post by Stephen Joseph. When I first saw the name of his article, I was thinking that the topic was a bit more specialized than we normally publish. On reading and enjoying it, I saw that its advice can be helpful in a variety of applications, thus my decision to publish this excellent piece.
My father tried to live with my severely anxious mother for as long as he could. In the end he couldn’t cope and moved out of our family home.
This left me to help my mother alone and at a young age I soon began to understand the complexities that an anxiety disorder can bring. In time I would also come to understand that I too had developed chronic inappropriate fear and apprehension.
Living with an anxiety sufferer is very difficult. It is frequently challenging to know how to help your loved one. The varying moods and fears create uncertainty, stress, anger and sadness. Anticipating and adjusting in order to calm the nerves of someone you love and care about is extremely tiring and for many it begins to produce cracks in the relationship.
The following suggestions offer guidance for people seeking ways to help a loved one suffering from anxiety. Each is based on a strategy I used when looking after my afflicted mother, and based on my own personal experiences of how anxiety feels.
Gain knowledge of anxiety
It was Helen Keller who once said: “Knowledge is love and light and vision.”
To begin to understand what someone you love is going through with their anxiety requires gaining knowledge of their disorder. Knowledge bridges the gap between inexperience and understanding, and will bring benefits to both you and those who suffer.
Mental health issues are frequently misunderstood and neglected because there are no physical injuries, scars or sicknesses to be seen. Unlike a broken leg or cancer, anxiety does its dirty work inside the mind often leaving no traces of its presence except for changes in behaviour and mood.
By learning more about what goes on in the mind and body of an anxiety sufferer, you will be able to provide more helpful support to your loved one.
Know when to ask for help
Anxiety, if left to fester, can destroy a person. It led indirectly to the death of my grandfather who had chronic health anxiety which was not properly dealt with. If your loved one is showing signs of not coping well under the strain of frequent fear and tension, it is in everyone’s interests to try and get them to see a doctor.
There are a number of short-term solutions to ease overwhelming anxiety and take the edge off the panic and torment. These can be discussed with a health professional who can suggest ways to move forward. Long-term stress and tension can lead to other complications such as clinical depression and a myriad of physical health issues.
Respect their treatment plan
Whatever treatment plans your family member and their doctor agree on, it is important for you to support and respect their decisions. There are a variety of different strategies when it comes to beating anxiety and each one can be achieved in parallel with others.
The most important medicine you can give is your love and encouragement.
Work together towards recovery
Whether an anxiety sufferer says it or not, one of the things they want most is for the people they love to stand by them. With gentle but firm support and understanding, a lot of the fear regarding their anxiety and how to overcome it can be reduced with your helping hand.
Work with them on their anxiety recovery plan. Spend time with them alone each day focusing on the techniques and methods they need to employ in order to reduce their levels of fear. Sit with them during guided relaxation sessions or help them overcome obstacles with various cognitive strategies. Allow for half an hour each day as a therapy time for both of you, whether you personally need it or not.
By doing this you will speed your loved one’s recovery and also form stronger bonds between you.
Open talk time
Misunderstandings and suppressed emotions are some of the biggest causes of friction in an anxious household. It’s all too easy to let yourself become angry, frustrated and even apathetic when faced daily with someone suffering from an anxiety disorder. These underlying tensions increase everyone’s stress levels and can in the worst cases lead to broken relations.
One of the most important things you should do is to set a time once or twice a week where you and your anxiety suffering loved one can talk together in private, for at least half an hour. During this period let them tell you exactly what is worrying them, how they feel, and what they think they can do to improve things.
You don’t have to try and offer solutions or fix problems each time you talk. The important thing is just to listen and to give them a sense that you understand and comprehend what they are sharing with you. Then after they have finished, you can share your experiences and thoughts. This can work wonders for their sense of security and can offer you many insights into things you can do to help. It will also strengthen the relationship.
Meet your own needs
It is incredibly important for you to find ways to spend time away from your loved one. This might sound harsh but it’s vital that you have a chance to recharge your batteries and find a sense of stillness in your surroundings. You need to meet your own needs in order to be strong to meet the needs of those who might depend on you.
Visit friends, engage in a hobby, take a weekend trip alone somewhere, or find a support forum of some kind. Think too of working on your own mental health regardless of whether or not you have a disorder. Begin some relaxation techniques and read inspiring books. Cultivate your own little island of serenity and this will soon begin to positively affect those around you.
From my own experience in life, I know that anxiety can be vastly reduced and even eliminated. There were times in my twenties when I envisioned nothing but fear, apprehension, and panic ruling my life for the rest of my days. However, through determination and support, I managed to rise out of the hole that had inflicted so much torment upon me.
Contemplate the suggestions I have given in this article and see how you can incorporate them into the lives of you and your loved one. With love and increased understanding, you can together find ways to lessen the effect anxiety has on both of you.
Stephen Joseph’s Web site is devoted to helping those who were once in his anxious position. To discover more strategies and techniques for reducing and beating anxiety visit his site.
What are your experiences? Join the conversation with your comments…