Relationships are what make the world go round. Our closest relationships are those that remind us of who we are, what we’re capable of and are there to show up through the ups and downs of it all. However, when you have anxiety, it can come in the way of you fully showing up and enjoying the positive attributes of the relationships in your life.

Anxiety can hold you back from deepening relationships or even from branching out and making new ones.

All relationships require transparency, honesty, patience and kindness, be it with your intimate lover, family members, colleagues or friends. You may have all those capacities, yet suddenly feel off your natural flow of interacting when anxiety hits. If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety and are looking to expand your relationships, deepen current ones and create new ones, here are some tips for you. I’ve written some pointers that may be helpful to you as your navigate your current relationship dynamics. Take what’s helpful and leave the rest.

Ways to show up in relationships while struggling with anxiety - 11 Tips

1.Drop the Shame.

 

You have anxiety? Have days you’d rather hide under your cover and never come out? Welcome to 2019. Many people out there have anxiety, it’s normal and you’re normal. But don’t let it rob you from really showing up to life. If you’re wanting to meet new people, get to spend more time with the ones you know, or even simply show up with more confidence at your work party, drop the shame of anxiety. Those who have been able to notice their insecurities and anxieties and still showed up to in life had better relationships and an overall higher quality of life. Many have even experienced a reduction in their levels of anxiety. Why? Good supportive relationships make us feel feel supported which promotes feelings of safety and calm.

  1. Show up in the ways you can

There will be days when you’re feeling sensitive and are the one in the relationships who is needing the extra love and TLC, and that’s ok. Go out with your friend, show up for therapy, ask your partner for a back rub or take some alone time, because on those days- that’s what you need. However, when you’re having a stronger day, show up for the relationships in your life.

Relationships are all about the back and forth, the give-and-take. It does’t need need to be tit for tat, but there does need to be a flow; so in the ways you can, show up. You may be great at showing physical affection, providing gratitude, verbally affirming someone else’s progress (“wow, I’m incredibly humbled and impressed by you” or the like..), treat them to a coffee or lunch date or reach out by phone to send some love and saying a warm hello {and making the conversation focused on the other person!}. This will keep the dynamic at a healthy balance.

  1. You can be an anchor, too.

We all know the feeling of wanting to vent to someone in our life but pausing out of fear of “burdening” the other. However, when we talk openly and are able to be an anchor for one another, we can safely share without the fear or panic of “overwhelming the other person”.

 

If you have anxiety, you may forget that you, too, have anchoring capacities and the ability to show up as a real emotional support to those in your life. No matter whose struggle is “bigger” or “smaller”, everyone needs a listening ear.

Let your loved ones know you are here for them, let them know you can tolerate their worries, their disappointments and their hopes just as they do the same for you. Everyone deserves nurture and care, and though there may be times where you’re the one needing the extra comfort, your ability to be a grounding force will allow your relationships to deepen.

  1. Be Mindful with your “Reassurance Seeking”

Anxiety can get us caught in a loop of asking “am i really ok”, “do you really think this looks good”, “are you sure I won’t feel this way forever?”. As humans, we all need to be heard and reassured, within appropriate limits. When you notice you’re taking your “reassurance seeking question” to five, ten or even fifteen different doorsteps, take a pause. More opinions isn’t always better, especially not when it comes to anxiety.

Choose one person who knows you well, who would “get” what you’re going through, and reach out to them.

Sometimes, you may need to get professional consult from an outsider who has expertise on the subject- which will help allay your worries or fears.

 

When it comes to your love relationship, keep yourself in check if your reassurance-seeking part is overtaking the dynamic.

If you’re constantly asking “do you love me”, that may inadvertently steal intimacy and can stunt natural spontaneous expression of love and affection. Rather, come up with something that can help you feel reassured. For example, hang a love-note, in a space you can see when needed, or save a voice note that you can replay when you’re needing to hear his/her voice.

If this worry seems persistent, you may be able to get some longer term relief from this by engaging in some deeper therapy to heal the root of the insecurity. This may come from past relationships, a false belief or a worry you’re carrying that you’ve been unable to shake. These are treatable with the right treatment!

  1. Watch out for projections. Don’t project anxiety onto your friendships or relationships.

What’s a Projection? A projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person. Projection doesn’t only happen with people, but it can happen with relationships as well. When your’e feeling insecure, worried or fearful, you may begin doubting the stability of your relationships. You may start feeling paranoid that your lover, your friends, your colleagues or your boss are not happy with you or don’t want to be close to you anymore.

Track yourself, because many times anxiety can be like a spiraling whirlwind that becomes more and more convincing as you spiral farther and farther away from reality.

Ask yourself: Is it possible you’re just feeling insecure and anxious, and no one around you is feeling any different than they were an hour or a day ago? Remind yourself that just because you’re feeling worried, it doesn’t always mean that there is something specific to be worried about. Check with reality, and let the truths hold you firmly as an anchor.

  1. Vulnerability is an attractive quality

 

When you’re aware that you struggle with anxiety, you may want to hide your vulnerability to protect your heart from getting hurt, and that’s only natural. We all want to show up to others from our most wholesome, grounded parts of ourselves. However, when we withhold vulnerability we take the risk of losing out from building meaningful relationships.

Of course, you do want to be wise and have a natural dose of emotional distance when just getting to know someone or when someone hasn’t yet earned your trust, but when you’re with people who are caring and kind, try to stretch your vulnerability muscle. It’ll allow the others to love you on an even deeper level, because your humanity is beautiful, and not to be ashamed of.  You may even find that others will more openly share their own vulnerabilities with you, making your connection an even more comfortable one than before.

  1. Dive into the tough conversations, don’t avoid them.

In all real relationships we need to look at the nice, shiny, fluffy “stuff” and also address the not-so-pretty, uncomfortable and real, tough conversations. You may want to avoid talking with your friends or partner about something that’s come up between you, a recent incident that made your anxiety peak, or something that’s bogging your mind. However, if there’s an obvious change in the way you’ve been acting or if you’re recently experienced something that’s deeply impacted you and you keep brushing off the inquires of those you love, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.

Uncomfortable and difficult conversations don’t go away, they grow like mold and often blow up the more you ignore them. Build your relationships on trust, and transparency, and believe that your relationships can and will get stronger because of it. …And if a relationship can’t handle real, honest conversations, it may not be the best one for you to be in.

  1. Teach your friends/partner HOW to be there for you.

 

No one goes to school to learn how to love YOU. No one attends a class that educates them how to show up for YOU. We are the experts on ourselves and it’s our job to let those in our lives learn how to show love and be there for us. Let those who love you know what’s hard for you. Is it a certain time of year? A new social situation? Noisy environments? Specific words? Talk it out so they can be sensitive to you and be a support.  This way, when you’re in a situation that you’ve described they’ll understand what’s happening for you, and understand instead of feeling confused.

  1. Look after yourself

At the end of the day, all the tips in the world will not be effective if you aren’t looking after yourself. No one can show up for you if you’re neglecting yourself, taking on a victim stance or slacking on your basic self care routines. If you’ve got anxiety, your job is to make sure you’re eating healthy diet -rich in omega 3s and balancing natural foods with {a much smaller dose of} processed foods.

You want to make sure you’re getting your exercise in, meditation, prayer or yoga; whichever one resonates for you, for each of those help calm the brain and body. Show up for your weekly therapy sessions and make sure to take some down-time for yourself. Being selfish is necessary when it comes to your health; mind body and soul. Carve out time to make your favorite home-cooked-meal, set aside special time for your lover and to intimately connect with those who replenish your energies.

  1. Honor their boundaries too

 

Boundaries are important for each person in the relationship, not just you, but also those in your life. Now, boundaries dont always feel good, they can leave us feeling unimportant, let down, disappointed or frustrated. And that’s ok. If someone in your life is setting boundaries, you can gently ask about it.

Boundaries are there to fiercely protect the relationship dynamic so neither person gets depleted.

Boundaries preserve each person’s sense of self within the relationship and that’s why it’s so vital.

  1. Laughter is the best medicine

With all these tips being focused on anxiety and relationships, it’s important to remember to keep things light. If you or your lover, friends or family members are struggling with anxiety, it’s even more important to make sure you add joy and funny moments in your life. It may be watching your favorite show, a comedy night or a laugh-out-loud youtube video that gets your rolling on the floor. We know that the more laughter and happiness in relationships, the better the individuals feel about the relationships.

Keep the tears of joy coming and you’ll be thanking yourself.

Relationships are the reasons we’re on this world. Connection is what keeps us moving forward in all areas of life. Though anxiety can make you hesitate when connecting with others, use these tips to help you navigate socially. You can be deliberate in your interactions and in how you work with and through your anxiety.

By working through your anxiety you can have deeper, more fulfilling and joyous relationships!

If you’re reading this and are aware that you may be needing some one-on-one help, reaching out for counseling may be right for you.

Building emotional skills to manage your anxiety in relationships will give you a richer life with more love, connection and ease.

In psychotherapy treatment, each client gets a personalized treatment plan and methods and modalities are based on their needs. Some effective methods are Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Cognitive Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Expressive Arts, amongst others. 

Take one small step today to building a richer life by deepening your relationships! 

 

*originally posted on integrativepsych.co

 

Esther Goldstein LCSW is psychotherapist and trauma specialist who runs a private practice called Integrative Psychotherapist in Cedarhurst, NY. At Integrative Psychotherapy we are passionate about helping adults reduce anxiety and find a richer way of living, loving and "being" that promotes joy and connection. Our therapists use science based methods and modalities such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (somatic), Expressive Arts and Parts work (Ego State Work) to help clients feel relief that last way beyond their time on the therapy couch.

Specialties include treating anxiety, trauma survivors, relationships issues, family-of-origin work, Inner-Child work, Attachment focused Therapies, Healing for Complex PTSD And Dissociative Disorder Treatment.

We also offer Trauma Informed Consultation To Therapists Committed To Improving Their Trauma-Informed Practice And Attachment Focused EMDR Consultation To Therapist Attaining Hours Towards EMDRIA Certification.

Website: Integrativepsych.Co