Guest Post by Aurora McCausland
If your spouse suffers from anxiety, whether chronically or sporadically, it can put a lot of pressure on you, as their partner, to help them with their anxiety. The most important thing to remember, is that you aren’t responsible for it, and you can’t directly change them. Often, the best thing you can do is to just simply be there for them as a support. After the anxiety attack has passed, you can check in and ask them what you can do to help them better the next time one occurs. They may not know, but no two people are the same, so it’s important that they know that you are wanting to help however they need. Here are a few suggestions of ways to help you calm your anxious spouse.
Change of scenery
Sometimes, a panic attack can be triggered by the environment that you are in. If you suspect that this is the case, you can help them move somewhere else that they will be more comfortable. Try to keep their comfort in mind as you decide whether or not a change of scenery will be helpful to them. If they are in public, moving them somewhere private will definitely help them to avoid embarrassment and staring eyes. Sometimes, taking them outside for a breath of fresh air can be helpful.
The symptoms of anxiety can vary person to person. For some people, they find themselves with a shortness of breath. As they try to regain that breath, they can begin to hyperventilate as they try to fill their lungs. Breathe deeply, encouraging them to do it with you. Be calm as you breathe in…and breathe out. They probably won’t be able to join you in calm breathing exercises, as it may take a while for them to get enough air into their lungs. Be patient with your anxious partner, and just keep breathing.
Use calming words
One of the most important things, is for you to remain calm. If you start to freak out, it will give your spouse, in the middle of an anxiety attack, reason to feel they have no control over their mind or their body, and it can make matters worse. Keep the tone of your voice even and soothing, and don’t speak too quickly.
Change their temperature
“Changing your temperature” is a grounding technique for someone who is experiencing anxiety. If they are hot, bring them an ice cube to hold, or run their hands under cold water. An ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas can help them to be aware of this temperature and their surroundings. If they respond better to warmer temperatures, see if running a hot bath or shower would be beneficial for them. Again, every individual is going to be different and respond to different tactics. Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t work.
Remember to be patient
It can be so hard to watch your spouse going through something as stressful as an anxiety attack, knowing that you can’t just take it away from them. Although it’s hard, you have to remember to be patient with them. Yelling, raising your voice, or getting upset will only make the issue worse. Keep your voice even, and try to be gentle as you attempt to help them. You may not be able to do much to help their situation in the moment, but trust me, just having you physically there are letting them know you are there and care about them, will be tremendously helpful to them.
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For a related post, see “Anxiety or Addiction: Whatever Scares You is Your Friend” I invite you to sign up for my blog by clicking “Follow Getting High on Recovery.” When you enter your email, you will get free access to the blog. I do not send spam or share your email with anyone.
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Photos courtesy of the author