Anxiety robs us of our relationships. We can’t put it any more bluntly than that. Now some anxiety really can’t be helped. Like: You’re going in for a big interview, or you’ve just lost your job. Others of you are there rocking in your chair, eyes affixed to the television, and your mind is deafened by what some have said sounds like a rushing wind in their heads because at a moment’s notice you’ll be called back to the hospital where a parent lies. Some of you have been dealt even more serious blows like being crushed by emotional and mental abuse, or suffering significant trauma in the form of post traumatic stress. Maybe you haven’t suffered trauma, but your child is leaving for college at the end of the summer.
Most of us, however are simply so very busy that we take little to no time for ourselves, and even less time for our loved ones. Couple after couple that come in for counseling tell that story. They don’t know that their constant stress, and their stress reaction, produce a constant flow of cortisol, known as “the stress hormone.”
Cortisol is released because your body perceives a threat which requires a quick reaction, the need to defend yourself, or at least the need for heightened-awareness. Cortisol begins a process where your body is moved away from the functioning of daily life, including memory making, and moves your system to sensory awareness, and muscle readiness. In other words, your body is prepared for “fight, flight, or freeze.” Some add “Fawn” to that list which is a defense strategy that says, “just get along whatever you do, and nobody will get hurt.”
Elevated cortisol levels that are relatively constant in a body interrupt learning, memory, and cognitive functioning. Cortisol lowers immune function, and decreases bone density, increases the chances for heart disease, weight gain, and blood pressure. If cortisol can do all those things to your body, what do you think high anxiety can do to your relationships?
Anxiety wreaks havoc on your marriage, partnership, and other relationships, that’s the truth. But TAKE HEART! You can do things that help you be more relational, and you’ll be a better version of you, too!
Kids and adults are often heard moaning, “I tried and it didn’t work!” We hear it quite a lot. We just shake our heads and ask, “well, did ya practice?” You see, anything practiced will improve. We teach you how to be different.
Anxiety interrupts your ability to communicate, affects your sense of trust, hope, and desire — all of which make for a bad relationship. The bottom line is you don’t need to be in a constant state of hyper-awareness. There is not a Sabre-Tooth tiger in the other room. Your stress is hurting you. You can use your partner to help ‘better’ you, as session by session we work towards relational success. But you can find ways to care for yourself right now so that you can be better for the love of your life. We take our anxious spouses through a number of particular practice points.
A practice point is a fundamental effort to be a better relational person. A good analogy for what we mean by a practice point is from the game of basketball. Particular practice points for the athlete are the dribble, the pass, the free-throw, a defensive stance, and the rebound. All of these practice points make the player a better teammate.
You want to be a better husband or wife? Practice. You want to achieve freedom from anxiety? Many of you can practice that too, and prepare to not be anxious. Many of you can choose to be different. Then find your fundamental practice point, and practice. One such practice point is called “grounding.” A myriad grounding techniques exist. Some mindfulness techniques require imaging and quite a lot of time, while others require only a few seconds. You’ll have to practice your favorite techniques. Freedom from anxiety isn’t a “one and done” effort. But practice and practice and after some time, your anxiety will lessen most often.
One effective idea for anxiety sufferers is to pick up the phone to call a friend. We often place a call as an important piece of an anti-anxiety plan. We know, intellectually you’re aware you’ll probably have a great conversation. But anxiety magnifies every difficult emotion, negative thought or sign of hesitation. Anxiety turns a normal event into a false message that becomes part of your pretend normal, and that can make talking about it difficult. Therefore, what follows are multiple ideas you can do on your own! They are all excellent practice points you can work with that will help you.
What anxious thoughts are you having that are most likely unrealistic? Two of the greatest tools you have to help with anxiety are a paper and a pen/pencil. Anxiety robs you of your sense of real normal, but it’s often helpful just to see what you’re feeling, or what triggered your feeling, on that piece of paper.
There are other ways that can help in the moment. Next week we will provide you some additional grounding tools – so be sure to check back next week! What will follow are different grounding tools or techniques that can eventually work to give you long-term freedom from anxiety! Think about that for a moment. Really think. What might life be like if you had freedom from anxiety? What would you do more of? What would you be able to do that you can’t do now? This is your turn to dream, just a little. Allow yourself a single moment of freedom to consider … freedom.
What you would do, say, or where would you go if you could be free? The tools are good in themselves, but we want you to gain insight into who you are in the process. Come in and get help working through that if you need to, but you got this. You got this.
Until next time: God bless.
Brought to you by:
Rick & Monique Elgersma of Real Connections Counseling, LLC
Get Quite a Lift at Real Connections Counseling”