The Hardest Part of My Marriage
This post is about giving you the perspective and a few tools to help comfort and calm loved ones struggling with anxiety.
I did not come from an emotionally supportive or resilient family life. I was an only child to a single mom. She worked incredibly hard to make sure I never had a need for anything. However, it was not until I was an adult that I realized the depth of mental health issues I experienced, and learned. While dealing with my own traumas after my GWOT deployments, I managed to unearth deeper, unacknowledged struggles. While I made progress with my own mental health, I was wholly unprepared to provide comfort and calm to my wife when she experienced anxiety and panic attacks. It created a situation that I will regret and feel remorse for my entire life. We are making progress through this together. I hope that I can provide some insights to help you be a better partner than I was, and I am still aspiring to be to this day.
Understanding the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
I honestly cannot recall whether anyone in my family suffered from any anxiety disorders while I was growing up. Not having prior exposure or experience with this, I was wholly unprepared for what my wife needed when she experienced her struggles. When the external anxiety met with my internal defensiveness and reactiveness, it has been bad. The sharknado of bad emotions can spiral way faster than any rational process should happen. What I did not realize, was that this was not rational. This was not a question of intent or malice or meanness. So what exactly was happening?
Understanding Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience at one time or another. It can be a healthy response to stress and can help us prepare for difficult situations. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily life, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that usually peak within 10 minutes. They can be very frightening and can include physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, difficulty breathing, and nausea.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Understanding the signs and symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks is the first step in helping a loved one who is struggling. Common physical symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, dizziness, trembling, sweating, nausea, and a racing heart. Emotional symptoms can include fear, dread, and a sense of impending doom. People experiencing anxiety and panic attacks may also have difficulty concentrating, feeling restless or irritable, and have difficulty sleeping.
Anxiety disorders can vary in severity and type. Here are some of the most common types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday life events.
- Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by intense fear and avoidance of social situations.
- Specific Phobias are intense fears about specific objects or situations.
- Panic Disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of intense fear and physical symptoms.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized by anxiety related to a traumatic event.
Anxiety and panic attacks can be very frightening and overwhelming. It can be difficult to know how to help someone who is struggling with these issues. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to provide comfort to loved ones struggling with anxiety. In this article, we will discuss understanding anxiety and panic attacks, signs and symptoms, how to comfort and calm a loved one, tips for coping with anxiety, creating a supportive environment, different types of anxiety disorders, common treatments, finding resources to help, and self-care tips for caregivers.
How to Comfort and Calm a Loved One Experiencing Anxiety and Panic Attacks
It is important to remember that when a loved one is experiencing an anxiety or panic attack, it is not their fault. It is important to be supportive and understanding. Here are some tips on how to calm and comfort a loved one who is having an anxiety or panic attack:
- Stay with them and talk to them in a calm and reassuring voice. Let them know you are there to support them.
- Encourage them to take slow, deep breaths.
- Distract them with a simple activity such as counting, coloring, or playing a game.
- Reassure them that the anxiety will eventually pass.
- Ask questions to distract them from the Anxiety – this is capitalized because we want to help establish a feeling of “otherness” and detachment from the feelings of anxiety. They are not their anxiety.
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen attentively.
Tips for Coping with Anxiety and Panic Attacks
It is important to help your loved one find ways to cope with anxiety and panic attacks. Everyone and every situation are different. When anxiety or panic attacks are happening you want to avoid coming off as an aloof yogi by diving right into breathing techniques. Hold off on any other techniques without showing your presence. At that moment, the only thing to do is comfort the loved ones struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. You have to be an outlet to relieve some of the emotional pressures. In the times between anxiety or panic attacks, work on some preventative coping measures together. Here are some tips that mental health professionals have given us for coping with anxiety and panic attacks:
- Practice relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness.
- Exercise regularly to help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Eat a healthy diet to ensure your body and mind are getting the nourishment they need.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants (Yeah, this isn’t part of our approach to any part of life).
- Get enough sleep (sometimes).
- Try to stick to a regular schedule and routine – kids do their best to end this possibility.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs used as escapes. There are legitimate pharmacological studies and proven results for the positive benefits of hallucinogens, cannabinoids, and other controlled substances. (Clinical Trials: Psilocybin for the Treatment of Veterans With PTS ).
How to Create a Supportive Environment for Someone Struggling with Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Creating a supportive environment is essential for someone struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. Here are some tips that have changed my perspective and TTPs for comforting my wife when she is struggling with anxiety. Without this list, I was completely lost and my own emotions and projections took over how I would respond. What is essential is creating an environment that allows anxiety or panic attacks to pass and ensures everyone feels safe. These are the steps I am working to do every time:
- Acknowledge the person’s feelings and validate their experience.
- Avoid criticizing or judging.
- Offer reassurance and encouragement.
- Be patient and understanding.
- Be available to listen.
- Be aware of triggers and help the person avoid or manage them.
- Encourage the person to seek professional help if needed.
These items all seem very straightforward. They make complete sense. However, when the emotional sharknado strikes, without this list, our emotions would escalate like a fission reaction without any control rods. These items, kept in my pocket on a little note card are my control rods. When dysregulation kicks in, these items help me take a step back to focus on my wife’s needs to help her get through this.
Self-Care Tips for Caregivers of Loved Ones with Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Caring for a loved one who is struggling with anxiety and panic attacks can be exhausting. It is important to take care of yourself as well. Here are some self-care tips for caregivers:
- Make time for yourself.
- Reach out to friends and family for support.
- Take time to relax and do activities that bring you joy.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Seek professional help if needed.
Anxiety and panic attacks can be very frightening and overwhelming. It can be difficult to know how to help someone who is struggling with these issues. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to provide support and comfort to our loved ones who are experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. Understanding the signs and symptoms, creating a supportive environment, finding resources to help, and taking care of yourself as a caregiver are all important steps in helping a loved one who is struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. When it comes to supporting our loved ones, the best advice I can offer is to take a step back and be present. Ask questions, listen actively, and be there for them in a way that doesn’t add pressure or judgment. Offer practical tips and try to understand the root cause of their anxiety – but don’t try to fix it!
At the end of the day, it’s about being understanding and empathetic. Over time, we can develop our own toolkit of techniques like deep breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques that can help our loved ones relax and manage their anxiety.
We can’t expect and don’t have to have any of the answers. We do have the power to give support and show up when it matters most. Our job is to comfort loved ones struggling with anxiety, not cure it or prevent it. With children at home, it is essential to show them that we can learn and establish effective coping and support systems. Even when things are at their hardest, being present makes the world of difference.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in