You have good reasons for feeling anxious, especially when life is difficult and unpredictable! Maybe you’re worried about your health, family, money, job, or future. You might even be having anxiety attacks for no reason at all – which is even scarier than having good reasons to be anxious! How do you stop anxiety from ruining your relationship? A reader asked for help, so I gathered a few tips for calming anxious feelings and protecting your relationships.
“I know I am clingy and anxious in my relationships, even my friendships and with my family,” says Indira on 11 Ways to Stop Being the “Clingy Girlfriend” in a Relationship. “My anxiety problems ruined my past two relationships because I was scared my boyfriend would leave me. And then they both broke up with me because I was what they call high maintenance. My current boyfriend says he loves me and wants me to stop being so anxious because it makes him nervous and edgy. My problem is that I don’t know how to calm down!”
We certainly have reasons to be anxious in this world. Luckily, we have many, many more reasons not to let anxiety steal our peace, joy, creativity, or love. We don’t have to live with constant feelings of worry, anxiousness, fear, insecurity or doubt…unless, of course, we choose to.
2 types of people who struggle with anxiety:
- People who choose to focus on the fears and anxieties that are inherent in this world. Every life, relationship, situation, person, family and community includes both conflict and calm. Problems – and anxieties – are part of everything we experience, both good and bad.
- People who have an innate, instinctive baseline or mindset of chronic anxiety. Some people are constantly tense, stressed, negative and afraid. It’s almost like they were literally bathed in a cocktail of anxiety, stress, fear, tension and worry in the womb. They’re born to an anxious mother, raised in an anxious environment, and become addicted to anxiety and stress. That’s when anxiety attacks and panic disorders are innate in their lives, not “just” a reaction to difficult times and problems.
Look within. What do you feel anxious about? When do feelings of anxiousness or even anxiety attacks overwhelm you? How have you calmed anxious feelings in the past? How is your anxiety affecting your relationships? Do you think your anxiety is caused by family influences, genetics, past trauma or difficulties?
Be honest about your anxiety level and needs. If you were to describe the source of your anxiety, would you be in the first or second category of anxiousness? If your anxiety seems to be innate and instinctive (if your family is highly anxious or even prone to panic attacks, fear, worry and stress), consider getting external help. Anxiety disorders are psychological health issues that need time and attention. Give yourself the love, compassion and peace you need by getting help.
These tips for calming anxiety before it ruins your relationship are for people who choose to allow their anxious thoughts run away with them. If you don’t know which type of anxiety you’re dealing with yet, write about the things you struggle with in the comments section below. Answer my questions, challenge my statements, write how you feel. You’d be surprised at how much clarity writing can bring – especially if you don’t know how you feel.
3 Ways to Calm Anxiety and Protect Your Relationship
Take good care of yourself. Be gentle, kind, and compassionate with your thoughts, feelings, and body. Research shows that anxious people may be more likely to drink alcohol and use drugs to calm down. Anxiousness also leads to disconnection in ways that are more socially acceptable: shopping, eating, playing video games, surfing social media for hours, gambling, watching movies and tv, and even exercising. Too much time spent doing these activities increase the risk of addictions and social phobias, which causes problems in relationships.
The bottom line is that anxious feelings – whether they’re anxiety disorders or panic attacks – can easily ruin love relationships. These ideas will help you calm your anxiety and save (or at least protect!) your relationship.
1. Accept problems, tensions and conflict as a normal part of life
The more you resist and fight the problems in your life, the higher your anxiety level will be. Fighting problems, waging war on enemies, and resisting the way things will make you feel worse. Resistance makes you more anxious because it heightens your awareness of how you don’t want things to be. The more you say or think “X should not do this” or “Y should do this instead of that”, the worse you feel. Your anxiety increases, your stress skyrockets, and your relationship gets tense.
Anxiety’s job might be to alert you to a potential problem. If so, great! Take care of the problem. But if it’s a problem or worry you can’t take care of, then anxiety will ruin your relationships. What’s your job? Not to fight anxious feelings; resisting how you feel will make the feeling stronger. Instead, relax into the conflict or tension. Accept it.
What’s your problem? What makes you feel anxious, stressed, tense, scared or worried? Write it down. Accept it as how you feel and what you’re facing. Don’t fight it; simply admit that your anxiety is caused by _________.
2. Pay attention to how anxiety affects your words and actions
How does your anxiety make itself known? Pretend you and I are standing or sitting in front of each other. How would I know that anxious feelings are affecting you? Maybe you’re biting your nails, or refusing to meet my gaze. Maybe you’re examining my red plaid tights and judging my skinny legs. Maybe you’re verbally criticizing my headband and crazy curly hair. Maybe you’re trying to pick a fight or hurt me.
Consider how your behavior with me – which is driven by your anxiety – affects our relationship. Put yourself in my shoes; how would you feel if you were me? Take five minutes. Be your anxious self. Be me. Look at how we interact, communicate and relate when anxiety comes between us.
Now picture yourself with your boyfriend or husband. Maybe your anxiety affects your relationship in different ways or maybe it’s the same way it was with me: you’re feeding your addictive behavior, refusing to look at him, avoiding connection, criticizing, judging, picking fights, escalating minor tensions. You might even ask your husband or boyfriend how he sees your anxiety. If he already told you that your anxious feelings are ruining your relationship, great! Now you have even more of a reason to get healthy.
Is your partner more anxious than you? Read How to Help Your Boyfriend Cope With Anxiety and Panic Attacks.
3. Learn your best ways to calm anxiety and protect your relationship
There is no one best tip on how to stop anxious feelings – or even how to save your marriage or relationship! Coping with anxiety is a process of emotional growth and spiritual renewal. Calming fears, living in uncertainty, dealing with problems, accepting hardship, and grieving loss is part of a healthy, rich deep life. There is no way to avoid the things that cause anxiety.
All you can do – which is a lot – is to find your best way to calm yourself and give yourself the love and compassion you need. If you’re dealing severe panic attacks or an anxiety disorder, talk to a psychologist or doctor. Get help! Don’t let anxious or panicky feelings ruin your relationship or marriage. Maybe a light prescription of anti-anxiety medication would help. Or, maybe you need weekly or monthly sit-down “talk therapy” sessions. Lucky you! Seeing an anxiety counselor or psychologist who specializes in panic disorders will help you heal and be free of the pain.
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life changed my life. I’m learning how to examine how my anxious thoughts about the past affect my mood, actions, words and relationships. Katie’s four simple questions – which she calls The Work – encourages us to test our thoughts and see if they’re true. Surprisingly easy, and extremely powerful.
Listening to Katie’s podcasts and watching her do the work with people on YouTube is a powerful accompaniment to reading Loving What Is. The book is the manual; watching Katie help people question their thoughts has literally changed my life. People ask questions you have, such as “My anxiety is ruining my relationship” or “I can’t trust myself to be honest with my boyfriend.”
Search the internet for Byron Katie. Download her worksheets. Test your anxious thoughts, and save your relationship. What do you have to lose?
I welcome your thoughts on how to stop anxiety from ruining your relationship below. I have no advice to give or anti-anxiety tips to offer, but I really hope you write about how you feel. Writing slows your mind and helps you figure out what you really think and feel. You find the truth when you write, and the truth will set you free.
Are you spiritually empty and dry? Read How to Give Your Anxiety to God – Blossom Tip 39.
With love and compassion,