Most of us struggle with anxiety at some point, and we know firsthand how much it can impact our own lives–but we don’t often think about how anxiety affects those in our circles. Since anxiety makes us focus inward, we may think that we are the only ones suffering from our spiraling thoughts. But if we don’t get our anxiety under control, it can wreak havoc in our relationships with those we love the most.
Signs of Anxiety
In order to understand how our anxiety is impacting our relationships, we must first be able to recognize the signs of anxiety in ourselves. Some of these signs include:
Being consumed by worry
Overreacting to situations
Physical symptoms such as fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, or panic attacks
You will begin to recognize your own unique signs once you start to pay attention to what you are feeling and experiencing. You can write your specific signs down so you can track what caused them and see if there are patterns. For example, maybe you begin to sweat every time you hear the neighbor’s dog start barking because you had a bad experience with a dog in the past. Or maybe your anxiety is triggered by a certain time of the day, like when you have to go pick up the kids from school, which marks the end of your alone time.
How Your Anxiety Impacts Your Relationships
Once you start to understand your own anxiety and what causes it, it will be easier to see the effects that it’s having on those around you. Here are some of the ways your anxiety can affect others:
Irritability towards others
Lack of patience
Codependency or over-dependency on others
Transference of feelings onto others
When you encounter other people in a heightened emotional state, you don’t tend to act as you normally would around them. You may say or do things you would have not done if you were calm. If you have anxiety about messiness, you may lash out at your kids when they make a big mess during playtime. Your anxiety may be centered around food and when your husband buys the wrong brand or type of food, you may be overly upset with him.
Perhaps your anxiety makes you too insecure to trust yourself and your own decision-making skills, so you rely a bit too heavily on your friends or a family member. One of the most dangerous things our anxiety can do is cause us to isolate ourselves from others. Sometimes our anxiety can be so crippling that being around others just feels like too much and you find yourself struggling with social anxiety–so you end up missing important occasions and making new memories with those you love.
People pick up on what you put out. Most people, especially those closest to us, can tell when we are on edge or not acting like our usual selves. This can create relational tension and your family or friends may start feeling like they need to “walk on eggshells” and be careful of what they say or do in order not to upset you. Moreso, if you keep your feelings bottled up, you may reach a point where something small can trigger an emotional reaction that is disproportionate to the situation.
However your anxiety manifests, seeking out help will benefit not only you but those you love.
Healing Broken Relationships
Pay Attention to Positive Patterns
Noticing what has helped you manage your anxiety in the past could be a way for you to create a plan of action. It can be helpful to write down what you think you need to alleviate your anxiety.
Taking deep breaths in the moment may soothe your thoughts. Go for walks, be present in your activities versus worrying about the next activity, focus on one action at a time.
Externalize your Worries
Another way to relieve anxiety is by externalizing your thoughts. You can do this by journaling about the things that you find yourself worrying about. Another way of externalizing your anxiety is by talking to God about them as is done in prayer.
Notice Your Needs
Once you have been able to externalize your worries, you can also identify what your needs are. Whatever comes to mind, write it down, and be sure to communicate those needs to those who can help you achieve them or take action for yourself on satisfying your need.
Be willing to be open and honest about what you are experiencing with those around as long as you know they are safe to share with. Before communicating, take time to calm down and own your feelings instead of blaming others. Acknowledge to yourself what bothers you and write down what you would like to say. Find the right time to communicate and express it using an “I” statement like, I feel ________, and briefly state what you are feeling.
Don’t lose hope if your anxiety has caused problems in your relationships. There is always hope for healing and restoration–and it starts with you. Seek out the help you need from a professional therapist, and be honest about your anxiety (to the degree that you are comfortable) with the people whom it is affecting. Chances are, if they love you, they will be forgiving and encouraging in your healing journey.