Back to Reality OR How to Love Someone With Anxiety

I don’t know about your household, but ours gets reallll grumpy the first two weeks or so of the school year. My son and I take a little more time to adjust to the new routine, so we’re cranky about that. Our crankiness (like, I suspect is the case for most people’s) has the tendency to spread to the other members of our family, who do not appreciate it; and their crankiness passes back and forth until we all need to take a nap, or until enough time has passed until our routines are once again established and all is well.

If this scenario rings true for you (or ones you love), it may very well be the case that someone in your family suffers from anxiety. Both myself and my son do, but my husband and daughter don’t –  and it can be hard for them to see things from our point of view, which can lead to a lot of frustration all around.

So if you yourself do not suffer from chronic anxiety, here are some tips for understanding (at least in part) those you love who do, and what you can do to help in this busy time of year (or, at the very least, steer clear from for a while, if needed)! *Small disclaimer: I am only writing from my own experience and your mileage may vary.*

People With Anxiety like routine. If we generally know what to expect, we can prepare for it, and that leaves less room for the unknown. It’s hard to prepare for something if you don’t know what is happening, and that feeling can generate a large amount of fear in a small amount of time. It takes a lot for an anxious person to be flexible. Sometimes, what seems small to us (a traffic incident that requires a detour, for example) can set off a chain reaction of fear and upset that looks completely out of proportion – but for us, it’s a lot to take in!

It may take time for us to calibrate. Even if the new event is something familiar to us, like going to school, there are new teachers to adjust to, new homework routines to get used to, and a lot of newness in general. Please be patient with us as we get used to how things are now!

Anxiety around school or new routines may look like this (although again, your experience may vary): stomachaches, headaches, lack of appetite (or eating more than normal), or pacing. Your loved one may keep bringing their worries to you in conversation, even if you’ve already talked about it many times. Just keep reminding us that we’ve talked it out, and that you’ll always be there to listen, even if it seems like we’re not getting it the first time.

We may need space, or we may be clingier than usual…which leads me to the last point:

We are not doing this on purpose to bother you. People who struggle with anxiety are not exhibiting behaviors that may be irritating or annoying just to mess with you or to give you a terrible day. It is just us processing and getting used to the world as it is right now.

What can you do to help? Gently reminding us of things that have worked in the past: exercise, drinking more water, or offering us things we love to distract us work well. Helping us remember that we are capable of handling new things, even when they’re uncomfortable or even painful, can also be a big help. Just being there for us in general is really key!

If you’re currently in this situation, I hope everyone adjusts soon. If you feel like it’s getting very unmanageable, or if you need outside support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist who is able to give you the expert help you need.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

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