by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
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 spouses 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. Its 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 spouses (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.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are a husband-and-wife team who not only share the same name, but the same passion for helping others build healthy relationships. In 1991, the Parrotts founded the Center for Relationship Development on the campus of Seattle Pacific University a groundbreaking program dedicated to teaching the basics of good relationships.
Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.
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This is great information, but what do you do when your spouse is a critical and judgmental person, so you don’t trust him with your serious concerns?
It seems to only add to the anxiety, thus I keep things bottled inside which leads to more stress. A personal counselor is not always affordable.
Cassie, yes living with a spouse who is critical and judgmental can really difficult and really difficult to communicate with. This is way too deep an issue to rely on short answers on Facebook. You mentioned a counselor and the expense. Yes counseling can be expensive, but the investment is typically worth it. If you simply can’t afford it, we suggest reaching out to a pastor and a couple who has a marriage you admire. Tough situation, praying for clarity and hope for you and your spouse.