Living Alongside Anxiety
There are many different forms of anxiety and with that, many different triggers. For some, anxiety is related to childhood fears. For others, conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome might be the cause of their fears. At the end of the day, however, anxiety basically means there is an irrational and ever present fear of something. This fear is usually understood, by the person experiencing it, as being quite irrational and unrealistic. This, however, does not stop the fear. In fact, it tends to do the opposite whereby the person starts to worry about the fear itself and they could start blaming themselves for this 'condition'.
If the italics and quotation marks didn't make it clear enough, I'll come right out and say it: I don't (or rather didn't) believe that most occurrences of this anxiety should be seen as conditions or illnesses. Fear and, ultimately, anxiety is a natural response of the body that serves as protection from harmful things. As time has progressed though, people have been trained to be afraid and negative in just about every situation they face. Parents make sure to teach their children about the dangers of the world and the struggles of life from a very young age. Violence, suffering, disease, politics, recessions and many more evils of the world serve as the tools with which parents brainwash their children into thinking the world is out to get them. They do this, understandably, out of love and because the world can really be a messed up place at times. That said, it's no wonder the world is in the state it's in. Anyway, enough ranting about society. The question I'm currently trying to answer is not how to deal with your own anxiety but rather how to deal with the anxiety suffered by those we love.
One of the most difficult things about being human and actually having a heart is seeing someone suffer. This is especially true when the people suffering are the ones that are closest to us. If you're a man in a relationship and your partner is the affected one, your first instinct might be to jump in and forcefully attempt to fix everything. This was definitely my first approach but I quickly understood that a much more gentle approach was needed
What is your experience with anxiety?
What To Do...
The main thing to keep in mind when you're dealing with an anxious person is that you should make it easy for them to be happy and relaxed. Don't force it but rather accommodate it at all times. There will be rough times where they get anxious, deeply afraid and worried about everything. Perhaps even to the point where you are scared for them. At this time, all you can really do is listen to and support them. Be the shoulder to cry on and let them speak to you about their fears and worries. Encourage them to speak to you if they feel comfortable doing so. Don't say anything, just listen and, at the very most, agree with them where it is appropriate to do so. Other than that, just be sure that you remain calm and relaxed at all times.
Once they've calmed down, your support can become a little more vocal. It's at this point that you'd want to guide them to identifying happiness for themselves. Don't point it out for them because, as we all know, you only really understand and appreciate something when you come to it on your own. So just lead the way and let them discover it again.
Be very careful not to say too much. One has to be extremely sensitive about the topic at all times. You simply cannot express any negativity about the situation . That would, in essence, attempt to treat negativity with more negativity. I think at the heart of withholding your insensitive opinions would be to refrain from saying anything along the lines of "It's all in your head". They know this and it only perpetuates the issue at hand. As I mentioned earlier this just leads to them fearing the fear itself and fatally blaming themselves for everything they've caused and that is a downward spiral.
It's also important to note that every situation is different and what your loved one needs may be very different to what another person might need. If the problem seems to be serious or even if it doesn't, it's always a great idea to seek professional help. By that, I don't mean to seek anyone with the ability to prescribe medication but rather find someone that's qualified to understand the problem and deal with it from an educated perspective. Medication should never be seen as the long term solution to the problem.
In my particular case I found that you should always aim to be a source of strength for the person when their own reserves are running low. Be there at all times and reassure them that you will not forsake them or leave them on their own. Only do this, however, if you know you'll follow through. Break your promises and you'll do more damage than any anxiety ever could.
Do It With Love
All of this might seem like a lot of work and effort however, if you truly care for someone and if you genuinely love them, it should all come as a first instinct. All that might need to change is your own personal view on the problem. It might be a good idea to speak to people who have experience in dealing with these things and to do some research of your own. If your loved one is suffering from some sort of anxiety, whether you believe it to be serious or not, one thing is certain: if you truly support them, you will only make their journey that much simpler.