by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Anxiety can affect every aspect of your life; generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can produce even more invasive consequences. Anxiety often compels us to engage in unhealthy behavior. Healthy coping strategies can help avoid this, but they may be hard to execute in the heat of the moment.

In times of great anxiety, there are several tried-and-true coping mechanisms that may help:

  • Social support-Friends and family can be much-needed sounding boards and may go a long way toward easing your anxiety.
  • Breathing-One important skill to master is deep breathing. Although it sounds counterintuitive, proper breathing is frequently forgotten. The correct way to breathe involves using your diaphragm. On breathing in and out, your stomach should rise and fall. Instead, many people use their chest and shoulders to breathe, resulting in short and shallow breathing which may increase anxiety and stress. Practicing the correct way to breathe can help alleviate anxiety.
  • Writing-Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal may help you cope with anxiety while improving your physical and psychological health. Additional effects include reduced tension and anger.
  • Progressive relaxation-Contracting and relaxing various muscle groups in your body can lead to a more thorough relaxation.
  • Mindfulness-Being aware of and in touch with the present moment can help ease depression and anxiety. Daily worries, especially about the future, can be shelved while you focus on the “right now.”
  • Distraction-Removing your attention from strong, uncomfortable emotions can result in a decrease in the emotions’ intensity. Your anxiety may be reduced, making it easier to control.
  • Self-care-Exercises that may be done by yourself to improve your mood and reduce anxiety include any that incorporate vision, hearing, smell, taste or touch. Examples include solitary nature walks, listening to soothing music, enjoying scented candles, slowly savoring a favorite treat or enjoying a luxurious bubble bath.

Anxiety in a relationship can manifest itself in many ways. Most common are:

  • Neediness-Sometimes, people in a relationship worry that they are too needy. Others may need constant reassurance that everything is OK. Either can cause undue stress in a relationship. To take some pressure off of your partner, find ways to cope with your anxiety on your own to enable self-sufficiency and confidence.
  • Suspicion-Suspicion can evolve into worry that your partner doesn’t love you, doesn’t care as much as you do, or is cheating. Anxiety may exacerbate paranoia. Remember to look for hard evidence and trust your intuition before jumping to conclusions. Asking your partner for occasional reassurance can also help.
  • Impulsiveness-Anxiety may lead to rash decisions, destructive actions and/or ill-considered conclusions. Impulsive, misguided actions are frequently a result of intolerable feelings of anxiety. Practicing breathing and mindfulness may help you slow down and think your actions through before doing something you regret.

Romantic relationships require intimacy. Developing intimacy may be distressing for anyone with anxiety problems. Unfortunately, our Internet culture has enabled and aggravated this problem. People suffering from social anxiety may use the Internet as a substitute for healthy socialization. This can reinforce avoidance behavior by allowing users to circumvent live social situations, thus avoiding personal evaluation and scrutiny. Pharmaceutical correction of many psychologically-based conditions has also enabled avoidance.

Frequently, relationship anxiety can become a self-fulfilling cycle. Anxiety can have long-term effects and cause big problems in a relationship. The best way to avoid these is to alleviate anxiety before it takes control.

First, realize that the anxiety is not a choice. It is no one’s fault. Second, develop real trust with your partner. Often, anxiety is the result of mistrust.

Communicate and discuss differences and insecurities. Miscommunication can lead to worry and anxiety which can be eased if dealt with head-on.

Both partners should develop boundaries. Let go of the little problems that crop up in a relationship. Later, they could develop into big problems if they’re not dealt with as they occur.

No relationship comes with a guarantee. Anxiety or worry may continue because of the fear of losing your partner. By living in the moment and accepting that you can’t control anyone or anything, you can develop a feeling of peace that your partner is with you now, moment by moment.

Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.