Anxiety is a common ailment that many people struggle with at one point or another. Whether experienced periodically after a traumatic event, or more chronically over the long term, there are many different ways that anxiety can present itself and impact our lives. From mental impacts such as intense panic attacks or brain fog, to emotional impacts such as feeling exhausted, frightened, or overwhelmed, to physical impacts like tense muscles or weight loss, anxiety can easily spread through all aspects of your daily life. It’s no surprise that anxiety can also impact personal relationships too.
If you have noticed that anxiety is inhibiting your ability to maintain healthy relationships with partners, friends, family, or coworkers, it’s time to take action before the relationships are damaged beyond repair. Here are some ways that anxiety can affect personal relationships, and what you can do to stop it:
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Breakdown of trust and connection
When anxiety takes hold, it can bring an overwhelming feeling of fear and worry that will overshadow your true feelings and needs. These overwhelming feelings can also make it difficult to tune into the needs of your partner, family, or other important people in your life. This is because your brain is too worried about ‘what ifs’ and is not thinking about the present moment. This makes it especially difficult to be fully present with those around you.
The key to building connection is to work on staying in the moment. This means working on mindfulness practices, communicating your feelings openly, and consciously acknowledging when you feel any symptoms of anxiety coming on. If you feel spaced out or disconnected, reach out to those around you and let them know where you are at so they can feel more in tune with you.
Inability to communicate feelings and needs
It’s common for those with anxiety to sometimes have trouble understanding and expressing their true feelings, which are being masked by discomfort or fear. Because of this, it can be difficult to communicate to others when you need space or support. Not only is this detrimental to relationships, it is not healthy for you as an individual to keep emotions and needs bottled up inside.
The best way to combat this is to do activities that help you get in touch with your feelings and help you acknowledge them. Have conversations with those around you about what you are experiencing and how you are feeling. Write in a daily journal, practice mediation, or find an activity that helps you calm down and clear your mind. When you better understand how you are feeling, you are in a much better position to communicate that to those around you.
Our brains and bodies are programmed to naturally protect us from danger by producing multiple warning signs when a situation is unsafe or off. This can be in the form of a feeling in your stomach, a quickening of your heart, or other physical or mental responses. A healthy amount of this natural response works to keep us aware and safe, but too much can cause a debilitating feeling of discomfort and angst all the time, even in situations that are completely safe. This might cause you to shy away from daily interactions or social situations, which can bring distance between you and those around you.
The best way to overcome this is to practice being uncomfortable. Challenge that feeling of discomfort when it arises, and ask your partner or friend to support you as you do this. If you make others aware of the journey you are going through, they will be better equipped to support you.
Anxiety is first and foremost an overactive fear or ‘flight’ response, which causes your body to be in a constant state of survival mode. This can mean that your attention is focused inward all of the time instead of outwards on your surroundings, your work, and your relationships.
Learning to recognize selfish or self-focused patterns in yourself can help you break those patterns and instead shift the focus to your partner, friend, or family member. Take time to do sometime for someone else, even something as small as making them a cup of tea or coffee, and see how your actions are received. You might be surprised or even relieved at how nice it is to take a moment away from your worries and focus on someone else’s needs instead.
Lack of joy and intimacy
In order to experience joy, we must first feel safe and comfortable. As we have said above, anxiety brings fear and discomfort that can inhibit us from feeling joy. When your brain and body are under constant stress, you might also have trouble connecting to others in an intimate way.
By working to overcome negative thoughts and feelings, you can be more present in the moment and enjoy some joy. Find the humour in the little moments, and laugh with those around you. Laughter and joy are healing mechanisms that can put your mind at ease and help you connect with others again.
Remember: as anxiety grows stronger, it works to separate you from the people in your life. But – as your anxiety becomes more under control, your relationships are able to grow stronger again. One of the most powerful tools for stopping anxiety from ruining relationships is to know how anxiety is impacting your relationships, and to build trust and communication between your most important supporters. Speaking to a professional about your experiences and your relationships is another great way to help you fully understand your anxiety and how it is impacting all aspects of your life. They can also help you develop a plan to get back on track and maintain your relationships.
Ready to talk about how you can stop anxiety from taking away your most important relationships? Find a therapist in Victoria BC to help you..