Advice

5 Lessons I Learned About Helping My Partner Cope with Anxiety

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One Love Heart Blue Written by Writer’s Corps member Cara Mackler

Anxiety is an extremely common mental health issue that many people face daily. Anxiety comes in many forms and can be either mildly or wildly impacting on someone’s life. If you or your partner struggles with anxiety, you’re not alone. Coping with anxiety as a couple can be difficult but remember you’re a team and you can cope with it together. Since I am not a medical professional, I cannot share a professional opinion on treating anxiety. But I can share some tips that worked for me and my relationship. Below are a few ways you and your partner can work through anxiety together.

5 Ways to Help Your Partner Cope with Anxiety

1. Research Your Partner’s Mental Illness

Without falling down the WebMD rabbit hole, it can be very helpful to do your own research on your partner’s mental illness. That can include educating yourself on the symptoms to have a better understanding of what your partner is dealing with or reaching out to a mental health professional for advice. It can also include researching helpful coping skills, local resources, or tools you can use as a partner to better support your S.O. Educating yourself about your partner’s mental health issues will help you support them while a mental health professional can help you fill in the holes of your research. Mental health professionals can also help you avoid any pitfalls like misconceptions and assumptions you have about your partner’s anxiety. While there’s a lot of helpful information on the internet that can benefit you and your partner, you should be cautious and verify that information with your primary care physician or a mental health professional. To connect with a therapist in your area search the American Psychological Association or National Association of Social Workers.

2. Identify What They Need

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It’s important for your partner to identify what their coping skills are: whether it be taking a walk, meditating, playing video games, writing, practicing mindfulness exercises, or maybe taking time to be alone. Coping skills can look different from person to person, so ask your partner what they need in their moments of anxiety (preferably not while they are anxious). Find out what they need but also find out what they don’t need. Maybe they need to vent, but they don’t need you to try to fix things. Remember that your partners’ needs may be different from your own in some situations. So, try not to assume what they may need, but rather ask them instead. It’s not always easy for someone to pinpoint exactly what they need when they need it, so be patient and understanding.

Related: Tell Them What You Need, What You Really Really Need

3. Keep the Communication Going

Mental illness can be isolating for the person experiencing it. When your partner begins to withdraw, start a conversation about what they’re experiencing. Instead of pretending like it isn’t happening and your partner to handle it on their own, gently ask them if they need anything at that moment, whether it be space or a moment to vent. Coping with anxiety or any type of mental illness can leave someone feeling embarrassed or ashamed. There is no shame in addressing mental health issues they are coping with, so remind them of that if they start to pull away. Be open and empathetic; although it is not always easy to understand, try to put yourself in their shoes and understand how they’re feeling.

Related: 5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationship

4. Accept That You Can’t Have All of the Answers 

5 Lessons I Learned About Helping My Partner Cope with Anxiety Learn 4

When your partner is going through something, it’s normal to feel guilty when you don’t know how to fix it. Remind your partner often that you are there to support them when they are in a funk and there is no shame in seeking outside help from a professional.

Related: 18 Ways To #LoveBetter in Your Relationship, Right Now

5. Take Care of Yourself

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Ultimately, healthy relationships are rooted in equality, compassion, honesty, and respect among other things. Your partner’s needs should not outweigh your own and vice versa. If your relationship is negatively impacting your own mental health or not making you happy, that means something is off. Connecting with a mental health professional for support can help you make sense of the imbalance in your relationship and provide actionable steps for you to re-establish healthy boundaries.

Related: Helping Your Partner Heal from Relationship Abuse

6. Get Support From Others

Since anxiety is so common, you never know who in your life may be able to offer some advice so see help from friends and loved ones. As soon as we begin talking about mental health, we are breaking the stigmas attached to it. Reaching out to people in your life can also serve as another reminder that your partner is not alone and neither are you. Mental illness can be crippling in so many ways, but no one should ever have to face it alone.

If you need advice about managing a mental illness, ask your primary care physician for a referral to a mental health professional or connect with a therapist by searching the American Psychological Association or National Association of Social Workers.

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