17 Things Significant Others Can Say to Someone With Anxiety

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Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates around 18 percent of the population is affected by them. Odds are you know at least a few people living with anxiety, and you’ve probably dated someone affected by it, too. But do you know how to help them, and more importantly, what to say or do when they need your support most?

We asked our mental health community what they’d like to hear from their significant other when dealing with anxiety.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I love you. It’s all going to be OK.” — Aunt Sam

I love you heart

2. “How can I help?” — Gladys Ramos Diaz

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3. “Your illness doesn’t affect how I feel about you.” — Erica Enos

affect

4. “I wish I could do something to help.” — Berdie Howell Muirhead

5. “You are safe.” — Rosanna Lewandowski

6. “Don’t worry, I got this…” — Donna B Primeaux

7. “I understand you’re not ‘crazy!’” — Debra Klimowich Buffi

8. “’I’m here.’ Not much has to be said. Knowing someone has your back is priceless.” — Cailea Hiller

hand coffee background couple

9. “My husband ignores my unfounded, fearful worries, says something funny, and suggests we go out and do something fun. Works for us.” — Elise Burnham

10. “Keep it simple… Anxiety is overwhelming enough.” — Lee Lewis

11. “C’mon grab my hand, we got this together.” — Amanda Camara

12. “I may not always understand what you’re feeling or why, but I am here if you need me.” — Amanda Antonini

Couple in Love Sitting on the Bench

13. “Just let me know what you want to do and we’ll do it.” — Candace Seekford

14. “Say nothing. Get comfortable cuddling, relaxing, rubbing the temples or whatever. When you have anxiety, you need to feel safe, protected and loved through presence.” — Traci Chandler

15. “This isn’t something you have to endure alone. Your chaos is my chaos and together we can ride it out.” — Asia Brito

Red abstract blurred heart shape on frozen window

16. “‘It’s OK, take some time to yourself, I got the kids’ is sometimes the best thing he can say.” — Shannon Trevino

17. “’Breathe. It’s OK. I’m here. Take deep breaths.’ It helps when he plays with my hair or rubs my back.” — Brittany Thornton Ferrell

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

*Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity

Images courtesy of ThinkStock

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5 Tips for Any Mom Living With Anxiety

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Here are five things I’ve learned to do more of as a mom who lives with anxiety:

1. Be honest with the people who matter.

Although many times my anxiety coincides with stressful situations in life, there are equally as many (or more) times there’s a disconnect between how I’m feeling and what’s going on. I’ve found it helpful to be honest when friends or family ask me how I’m doing. I’ve explained that even when our lives are relatively low-stress, I can still have a hard time managing my anxiety. More often than not, it opens up a great dialogue and lets me highlight an often misunderstood aspect of my disorder.

2. Be kind to your anxiety.

I always remind my kids that although you don’t have to like everyone you meet, you do always have to try to be nice. Truth is, I would’ve benefited from using a bit of that wisdom sooner when it came to my anxiety. I’ve spent a long time separating myself from my disorder and being cruel to it. Harsh thoughts grounded in judgment and detachment were littered throughout my most challenging times. What I really needed to do was be more tolerant and patient with not only my anxiety, but with myself. I don’t like my anxiety disorder, but I’m trying to treat it a little better now that I’m a mother. With my children always at the forefront of my mind, I’ve changed my inner and outer dialogue to be softer and more loving in my darkest moments. I want to be a strong role model of self-acceptance for my kids, and what better way than with something I struggle with every single day. 

3. Don’t get caught up if people don’t understand what you’re going through.

The truth is, not everyone is going to understand how you’re feeling. It can be overwhelmingly isolating to dwell on points of separation — it’s much more helpful to accept any empathetic feelings that are sent you way. I’ve found that although the depths of my emotions can be undoubtably different than my loves ones, I’m still grateful they’re trying to connect with me.

4. Stop apologizing.

They say a great way to measure your depth of understanding of a given concept is to explain it simply and effectively to another person. I’ve found that sharing the truths of my life with my husband, especially on the topic of my anxiety disorder, has given us both the opportunity to better support each other. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a spouse or an acquittance with whom you feel a connection, instead of apologizing, explain how your anxiety works. It will deepen your relationship and empower you both to work together to better manage a disorder that can often times be far too much to face alone. 

5. Be as open as possible with your children.

As a woman and now as a mother, I’ve been taught that no matter how I’m feeling on the inside, I’m expected to keep a cheery and stable disposition on the outside, especially around my kids. I’ve spent a long time considering this widely accepted notion, and have since adopted a new mindset about how truthful to be with my immediate family and children. If I’m going to advocate for the destigmatization of mental health, it has to start at home. With age-appropriate terminology, conceptual language that speaks to their developmental stage and an open mind, I’ve found my children’s ability to understand and accept the challenges of others have expanded exponentially when I’m open about my challenges.

I feel proud to be a mother who is living with, and actively using, my challenges to teach my children about anxiety disorders. I hope that with my help, they’ll have the tools to not only to be more empathetic and supportive of others who may face similar challenges, but they’ll also be better equipped to identify mental health issues within themselves and, without any fear or shame, seek help.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When I Got Caught Crying in the Bathroom at Work

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Even though my diagnosis of anxiety and panic disorder didn’t come until my 20s, I firmly believe I’ve been dealing with an anxiety disorder most of my life. However, until I graduated from college and began working jobs, I never understood how big of a hurdle my anxiety would be in the workplace.

Work is a stressful place for many. According to an article in The Atlantic, workplace stress among employees in America can often lead to health problems like cardiovascular disease and other fatal conditions. A report from the American Psychological Association found that in 2014, 60 percent of surveyed, employed Americans cited “work” as their top stressor.

And that’s not focusing on a group of people with already existing mental illnesses like anxiety or depression — that’s just your average American.

I love my job. I really do — I have an awesome team, an inspiring mentor and I work somewhere that has a mission I believe in whole-heartedly. I enjoy the office, the culture and the community we work in. But work is either #1 or #2 (depending on the day) on my list of “things that induce panic attacks.”

This isn’t solely the fault of my job’s demands — I’m a perfectionist at heart and a very driven-to-prove-myself kind of person. Working long days with tight deadlines and critical work would stress anyone out — but for someone with anxiety, there’s a level of stress that goes beyond that.

One time at the office, about five months or so into my employment, there was a situation in which I had a full-blown panic attack at work, ending with me crying in the bathroom where a very important person in the company totally saw me. The reason I was upset was no one in particular’s fault, just a typical not-so-great day at the office with a bit extra drama than usual. But I could not handle it. And I just completely broke down.

I was so embarrassed and so ashamed. I thought for sure I was done. Who keeps around a cry baby who can’t handle a rough day?

The day ended with an apology from my supervisor, reassurance of my talent and skills and me heading home early to lay in bed until the next morning. Though to most people, the day ended just fine, I could not let go of the fact that I “failed.” I’d lost my cool in the place where my cool matters most. It was, quite literally, my worst nightmare (like, pretty sure I’ve had that dream before).

From that day on, I constantly wondered if my boss thoughts I was “crazy.” I was terrified of looking anything less than put together at work — I thought my status and job security depended on it. However, these “standards” were only set by one person: me.

I hit a pretty low point a few months ago and my stress was at an all-time high. I wasn’t doing a very good job at hiding it (though I was getting better at not crying at the drop of a hat). My boss pulled me aside at one point and point blank asked me if I was OK. I wasn’t. And I told her.

I don’t recommend this to everyone — it really depends on the type of relationship you have with your supervisor, and the kind of work you do — but I sort of word-vomited all over myself and basically spilled my guts to my boss about my anxiety, my therapy, my coping mechanisms and how I wasn’t coping so well at that particular time. I didn’t go into details about my issues in my personal life, just that I generally was having a hard time, and an even harder time keeping it together at the office. And you know what? I wasn’t fired! Hallelujah!

Instead, my boss was incredibly understanding, and even shared some of her own vulnerabilities with me. It was a very touching conversation. And, going forward, I didn’t feel like I needed to hide my struggles and emotions as much in the workplace (though I still aim to keep it pretty professional as much as I can). It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and it’s all because I was honest, not only with my boss, but also with myself. I wasn’t crazy.

Just the other day, a few months since our initial talk, my boss pulled me into her office to talk (cue internal panic). All she wanted to tell me was that she had noticed I seemed more alert in meetings and was speaking up more in discussions. She wanted to tell me that 1) she noticed and 2) she was proud of me, and hoped this meant I was feeling better.

At that moment, I swear I felt my heart swell — just like the Grinch, it grew a few sizes that day.

It was one of the most empowering, empathetic, beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced, and I think about it often. I’m not sure if she understands the profound impact it had on me, but I hope she does, because I think about it all the time.

If you struggle with a mental illness in the workplace, you are not crazy, and you should never be made to feel like you are. Being honest with yourself, and maybe your peers around you, could be enough to put your fears to rest and help ease your mind about your anxiety. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Go cry it out in the bathroom, chug some ice cold water or take the day to lay in bed, but never doubt that you are worthy of your position, and damn good at your job.

Follow this journey on Naturally Sheyna.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about the first time you reached out to someone about your mental illness. Whether it was a friend or a professional, we want to hear about why you opened up, how it went, and why you’re glad (or maybe not glad) you did it. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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20 Songs People Listen to When Anxiety Keeps Them Up at Night

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Anxious thoughts seem to pop up at the most inopportune moments — like when you’re settling into bed, trying to fall asleep. (Really, brain? We couldn’t have had this conversation a couple of hours ago?) When this happens, we look for ways to calm those thoughts. Sometimes that means opening a book or trying a breathing meditation, and other times it means reaching for our headphones and playing our favorite soothing songs.

We asked Mighty readers on Facebook for the songs they listen to when anxiety keeps them up at night. Here’s a sampling of what they suggested. A Spotify playlist is at the end.

1. “Invincible,” Kelly Clarkson

“I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed…”

2. “Keep Your Head Up,” Andy Grammar

“You gotta keep your head up, oh, and you can let your hair down…”

3. “Brave,” Sara Bareilles

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.”

4. “Fight Song,” Rachel Platten

“This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m all right song…”

5. “Swim,” Jack’s Mannequin

“When you’re not so sure you’ll survive, you gotta swim.”

6. “Diamonds,” Johnnyswim

“We are the brave…”

7. “Chandelier,” Sia

“I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry.”

8. “Warrior,” Demi Lovato

“I’m a warrior, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been…”

9. “I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz

“I am tough, I am loved…”

10. “Breathe (2 A.M.),” Anna Nalick

“Just breathe.”

11. “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver

“Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.”

12. “Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley & The Wailers

“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing will be all right…”

13. “All Will Be Well,” The Gabe Dixon Band

“All will be well, even though sometimes this is hard to tell…”

14. “Desperado,” The Eagles

“It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you.”

15. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.”

16. “Little Balloon,” Jenny & Tyler

“No one is able to steal what is in your hands.”

17. “What a Wonderful World,” performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

18. “Boat Song,” JJ Heller

“If you were afraid, my darling, afraid, my darling, I’d be the courage you lack…”

19. “One Call Away,” Charlie Puth

“I’m only one call away. I’ll be there to save the day. Superman got nothing on me…”

20. “Such Great Heights,” performed by Iron & Wine

“I hope this song will guide you home.”

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

What’s your go-to song to listen to when you’re feeling anxious at night? Add it to the comments section below.

 20 Songs People Listen to When Anxiety Keeps Them Up at Night

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15 People With Anxiety Describe Their Perfect Date

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s time to show that special someone you care. And when your special someone lives with an anxiety disorder, one of the most romantic things you can do is make him or her feel at ease. Whether you’re planning a first date or spending a night with your husband or wife, learning what triggers your partner, or knowing what triggers yourself, and planning accordingly is one of the best ways to ensure the night is a success.

We asked some of our readers who live with anxiety to tell us about their ideal date. But don’t take their word for it — ask your partner what makes them comfortable. Or if you’re the one who lives with anxiety, speak up and let your Valentine know what you need.

In the meantime, some of these answers might give you inspiration:

1. “Most of my days are spent at home due to my anxiety, but when I’m having a good night I like to try and see the outside world. I enjoy having dinner and a cocktail in a public place where we can chat and people watch: maybe a sidewalk cafe or art gallery bistro where we can talk and connect and feel a part of this big beautiful world I sometimes miss out on.” — Andrea Nicole Olivarez

2.I like to just sit with them and talk about life, without worrying about other people around me.” — Theresa Pancella

3. “If we’re going out, I’d like to go to a restaurant I’m familiar with that’s quieter. No movies, that’s too much, but food is nice and comforting. If I had the option, I’d prefer to stay in at my place and watch movies and make food together, or just do something in the comfort of our sweats.” — Lauren Greschaw

4. “My ideal date would do something romantic, yet casual. Something close to home or at my home like coming over and cooking me dinner and bringing a favorite movie.” — Aurora Jade

5. “Pretty much any date with my significant other will do as long as the plans don’t change. That is one major trigger for me.” — Tia Marie

6. “Sitting at a casual, quiet place where we can talk and not worry about people’s judgments.” — Abigayle Petty

7. “Seeing a movie early in the afternoon because it’s less crowded.” — Lisa DuVal

8. “I usually go for the old standby of dinner and a movie. The theater is dark so I don’t have to see anybody else, and at the dinner I’m usually so focused on the person I’m with I don’t have time to worry about my triggers.” — Patrick Dovah Bowden

9. “I enjoy going to lowkey places with my husband; restaurants that have plenty of space between the tables, etc.” — Christianne McCall

10. “There was a great ‘Big Bang Theory’ episode where Rajesh takes his date to a library and they text each other back and forth from across a table. That would be kind of nice, I think, for a first date. It would take the pressure of ‘casual talk’ off the table – I’m much more composed when I type. And there would be other people around, but not in a distracting way.” —  C.C.P.

11. “If my husband were to plan something — I would hope it’s a place I’ve been. Going to new places makes me even more anxious.” — Jandj Houston

12. “My ideal date would be something quiet, yet somewhere where I’m comfortable. I can’t handle many people because of my anxiety/” title=”View more social anxiety stories”>social anxiety. A date at a nice quiet café/bookstore, getting dressed up and going out to a not-so-busy restaurant (sitting away from everyone), or even a drive out of town. I have to have an idea what we’re going to do though. Or else I will have an anxiety attack just thinking about it.” — Kate Marie

13. “My ideal date could be anywhere — with the right person. Every ‘date’ has its own difficulties, but having the person you’re dating understand what little things help can make a stressful date calmer.” — Cassandra Coogan

14. “I like dates where I know the general itinerary, but there are still allowances for the sweet surprises. For example, I knew ahead of time we’re going to dinner and then for a drive. This date became going to a really nice steak house and then a drive to a park where we sat and stargazed.” — Whitney Williams

15. “Mine and my boyfriend’s first date was perfect: he took me out to dinner at a pizza place, then we walked around a local park and talked. He made me feel comfortable the entire date which made me see he cared.” — Julia Ann Lange

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

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6 Secrets I've Never Told My Friends About My Anxiety

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I’m fairly open with my friends about most aspects of my personal life, but my anxiety has always felt like a taboo topic. My biggest fear is that they won’t understand because they haven’t experienced it themselves, but I also worry they will judge me for being “crazy,” overly dramatic or weird.

Anxiety is something that affects me daily, and while I’ve learned to manage it, it’s also one of the many things that defines who I am as a person. I don’t need my friends to be sympathetic, but I do want them to fully understand why I do the things I do and the occasional disconnect between my heart, my brain and my body.

Here are some secrets about my anxiety I’ve never been able to tell my friends:

1. Big group outings are my nightmare.

If I’m at dinner and I can’t see or hear everyone seated at the table, that’s outside of my comfort zone. So, generally speaking, being around more than 7-8 people is when I start feeling anxious and unsure of what to say or do. If I have to meet someone at a bar or restaurant, I’m already thinking of what could possibly go wrong. Attending trade shows or events where dozens of random people are wandering around makes me want to barf. I just don’t know what to do with myself. It’s not like I’m going to fall over or turn blue if I’m in a crowd, but I can feel myself freezing up and shutting down. When that happens, I don’t feel good and I want to be anywhere but there.

2. It affects me on a physical level.

You know the butterflies you feel on a first date? The pit in your stomach and the barrage of thoughts racing through your head? Multiply those butterflies by ten, add diarrhea, sweating and the feeling of your heart pounding out of your chest, and you’ll understand how it affects my body. On top of this, sometimes my jaw and hands will shake. Even when I’m at home, I’m not safe from this. After particularly triggering events, I can literally lay awake in bed all night thinking about something that’s bothering me. It’s impossible to shut my brain off, and even if my body is screaming for sleep, my mind always wins. I don’t always experience physical symptoms, but when I do, sometimes I feel like I have to tame a panicked, wild animal.

3. Sometimes I feel like the most awkward person ever.

You know the episode of Family Guy where the Kool Aid man bursts into the courtroom at the absolute worst moment? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch it here. In addition to the awkwardness, people frequently mistake my anxiety or shyness for me being bitchy, which is even worse. I’m often so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing that the fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if others aren’t actually judging me or staring at me, it feels that way and it has ever since I was a teenager.

4. It isn’t always there

This is what’s so complicated. Sometimes I’m fine, sometimes I’m not. While I know certain situations will provoke my anxiety and I do my best to avoid them (or prepare myself as best I can), I can’t always predict it. There have been times where I’ve walked into a room and completely owned it, but the next day I might feel nervous about going to the grocery store during a busy time of day. Even I don’t fully understand it, so how can I expect my friends to?

5. The Xanax jokes are only so funny

I have a prescription for Xanax. Though I only take it 8-10 times a year for what I deem to be “emergencies,” it’s something I find to be incredibly useful. In the past I’ve joked that someone needs to “hand me the Xanax,” but for some reason it’s not as funny when my friends say it. It makes me feel like they don’t want to deal with the real me. So you can joke about it, but please think about the message you’re sending first. Or, here’s a better idea: Instead of asking if I need a Xanax, ask if I need a hug.

6. I really do enjoy spending time with you

Have I told you this? I’ve meant to. I may drive you nuts with my tendency to overthink everything and panic about seemingly trivial matters, but I love you and I truly appreciate your decision to stick with me. I hope you find my Elisabeth-isms endearing rather than annoying, and I hope we can laugh about them later on. Eighty percent of the time you probably won’t even notice this, so I’m not too worried about it. Aside from being supportive and listening to me, there’s nothing more I could possibly ask of you.

Lead image courtesy of Christian Schaffer

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