telephone: 202-969-2277         email: alicia@aliciaclarkpsyd.com         address: 1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036

How To Deal With Anxiety In Relationships For Good

shelby-deeter-193590-unsplash 2

It can seem counterintuitive that those closest to us, who know us best, could also cause us so much anxiety. Yet as uncomfortable as it is, anxiety in relationships is both common and natural. To help us weather the discomfort and nurture our relationships, we need to know how to deal with anxiety in relationships.

Why do we experience stress in our relationships?

When it comes to relationships, anxiety can be confusing. Often cloaking itself in withdrawal and self-protection, anxiety can isolate us at the times we are overwhelmed and most need support.

Surprisingly, we worry or feel anxious about our relationships because we care deeply about the people in our lives. In fact, feeling anxiety in relationships can be a superpower. It makes us more sensitive than those who aren’t anxious, allows us to notice things they don’t, and can even make us better partners.

Sometimes, however, we can become overwhelmed by trying to manage or ward off our anxiety. We don’t realize how we come across to the people we love; or worse, we are too consumed by it to risk showing vulnerability.

This is nothing to feel bad about, though. Feeling bad about feeling bad just makes things worse.

Instead of ruminating about feeling anxious around and for the people you love, you can use your anxiety as motivation for learning how to deal with anxiety in relationships.

How to deal with anxiety in relationships.

  1. Know there’s a purpose – The most important thing to know about anxiety is that it isn’t dangerous, and there’s nothing wrong with you if you feel it. If you’re worried about something, trust that there’s a reason for your concern. Anxiety is a signal that there’s something calling for your attention. There are wisdom and information in it. Once you accept that the uncomfortable feeling you’re having is purposeful, the next step might be easier to take.

Think of our emotions as signals about how we are doing in relation to our hopes, desires, and goals – they’re the impetus for us to set things in balance and do what needs to be done to achieve it.
~Hack Your Anxiety: How To Make Anxiety Work for You in Life, Love, and All That You Do~

  1. Name the emotion(s) – Not all anxiety is the same. You might be feeling slight concern, definite worry, twinges of anxiety, or even full out panic. And it’s not unusual to feel other emotions along with anxiety. Some of the emotions that can co-exist with or even hide anxiety are anger, frustration, sadness, or even boredom and excitement. Amazing things can happen when we take the time to name what we’re feeling. First and foremost, we can gain more control of it. We can also reduce the stress we’re feeling and become better able to gain clarity about how to proceed.
  2. Get inquisitive – Become curious about what your anxiety is signaling. It’s trying to get your attention by triggering your focus. Instead of focusing on being worried, you might shift your attention to understanding what your discomfort is trying to tell you. To really know how to deal with anxiety in relationships, you need to know what type of anxiety you’re dealing with. It could be irrational anxiety, “ghosts,” or rational anxiety. It could also have nothing to do with your relationship at all but be leaking in from some other part of your life.If you determine that what you’re feeling about your relationship, you’ll find the next steps helpful.
  3. Tease out irrational anxietySome anxiety is almost always rooted in the irrational. Take the common fear of “I can’t handle it.” Have you ever thought about looking at the evidence? What does it say? Are you afraid, averse to the discomfort, or is it literally true that you can’t handle it? Which of your relationship worries are wholly unlikely to happen? If there’s no evidence to support your worry, chances are likely that such a worry is unfounded and irrational. Irrational anxiety doesn’t mean such a situation isn’t possible, just that it isn’t probable. When your mind starts spinning irrational fears, try reigning in the possibilities to focus more on the probabilities.We can’t stop our thoughts or make them go away, but we can choose to replace them with more reasonable ones.
  4. Check for “ghosts” – We all bring baggage into our relationships. And these ghosts of particularly painful events from our past alert us to situations in the present that reminds us of our past. Our memories of the past can be surprisingly accurate. They can also misfire. The goal here is to understand your triggers and how experiences from the past have shaped your vulnerabilities today. When you get triggered, your anxiety can escalate. However, when you understand your sensitivities, you can more easily determine what is a rational concern and gain a greater sense of control.
  5. Courageously consider the rational – Rational anxiety signals a realistic threat that’s worth heeding. Data that support anxiety are often minimal and inconsistent. However, rational anxiety is always inconveniently irksome if you’re brave enough to pay attention to it. It’s always trying to protect you; so it’s worth sorting through the small, inconsistent bits of data to courageously determine the message in rational anxiety.
  6. Practice self-care – When you’re feeling worn down from struggling with how to deal with anxiety in relationships, you’re more vulnerable to the negative symptoms of anxiety. Even though you may not feel like doing so, this is the time to limit alcohol, sleep more, get proper nutrition and exercise moderately. It might also be the time to power pose and boost your confidence as you sort through what your anxiety is bringing to your attention.

Dealing with relationship anxiety can be extremely inconvenient and uncomfortable.

No one wants to be a detective in a close relationship. Yet, when worry about a relationship strikes, you deserve to take the time to understand the message behind the worry – and its importance.

By knowing how to deal with anxiety in relationships, you will give yourself the opportunity to make or request necessary adjustments. Then you’ll be able to resume nurturing your relationships with the people you love.

For more help managing anxiety, check out my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, register for my free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here, or check-out my anxiety and relationships blogs.  

Photo by Shelby Deeter on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

Leave a Comment