WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU OR YOUR SPOUSE STRUGGLES WITH ANXIETY

These last couple of years have been a challenge.

anxiety

Like so many, you have probably experienced some stress or worry because of the craziness and uncertainty of the pandemic, inflation, political unease, and their implications.

When you or your spouse experience anxiety and worry more days than not, it can strain and weaken the closeness and connection you have with one another.

Before getting into some strategies to help tackle the anxiety, let’s clearly define what generalized anxiety looks like. This will help you assess whether that is, in fact, what you are struggling with.

First, worry is a repetitive thought about negative future events.

Now, that’s a normal part of life. It becomes a problem when you experience chronic, or extreme, worry you feel you can’t control. There are usually some physical symptoms that manifest because of the worries; such as irritability, restlessness and edginess, insomnia, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, or being easily fatigued.

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience at least 3 of those symptoms regularly.

If that description sounds like you or your spouse, here are some strategies to overcome the anxiety:

  1. Start with muscle relaxation or deep breathing. People carry stress in their bodies. Some common examples are clenching your jaws, tightening your fists, or tensing your shoulders. To release the physical anxiety, sit down and begin at the tip of your head and focus on each area of your body. Then release any tightness, visualizing yourself turning to jello. Do from the top of your head to your toes. It’s helpful to practice this at bedtime. Relaxing breath-work starts with a deep breath which extends your abdomen in order to fill up with air. Then slowly breathe out, releasing the stress or frustration as you do.
  2. Make time to discuss the facts around the worry with your spouse. When you look at the facts rather than the fears, you can significantly reduce the worry around the future event. One important fact to remember is the “what ifs” of anxiety rarely happens. Research shows 85% of what we worry about never happens, and the 15% does occur? 79% of people in one study said they discovered they could handle it better than they expected.
  3. Schedule “worry sessions.” Don’t laugh; even if it sounds counterintuitive. When you plan time regularly to devote your full attention to your worries, and then leave them there for the next time, it is tremendously helpful in containing the amount of worrying you do. This action stops the anxiety from hijacking your thoughts randomly and interfering with your ability to enjoy other activities or interactions. If you want to discuss the worry with your spouse, you can set a time limit together of 15-20 minutes to share what is concerning you. This way, your spouse can supportively listen without feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Be fully present when you are around each other. Focus on what you are currently doing, and intentionally use all your senses to be engaged and aware of how you feel. When you intentionally focus on what is in front of you, putting all your attention into it, it reduces anxiety significantly.

Try some of these strategies and don’t let the worry of the future be a source of strain that robs you of being able to have a peaceful, enjoyable present together.

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