I need help knowing how to support my husband. He’s been going through a very stressful time at work now for months. It’s dragging out unbearably, but we keep hoping that soon it will be all resolved. In the meantime, he is stressed, and me, as an extremely empathic anxious person, am stressed by his stress. I want to help him and support him, but I also feel anxious and worried all the time by what he’s going through as well as what it means for our lives together and mine with him.
So much is currently up in the air—where we’ll live, what work I’ll do, everything. And I am so very worried and nervous about it all.
But I don’t want to worry him on top of all his worry. Sometimes, though, I can’t help it. He knows me so well, he knows when I’m worried by what I do or say. He then, in turn, worries about me. We’re more used to this dynamic—me being the worried one and him being the comforter. It’s easy to turn to, but in this situation it’s backwards.
But is it? His worries do affect me and I can’t pretend otherwise.
So now we’re in a cycle of trying not to worry the other person, but being stressed and anxious ourselves. We’re trying to shield the other person from our stresses, but that sometimes just makes it worse when we learn what they’ve been going through.
So how do you support a spouse or loved one or friend through a highly stressful event that lasts an extended amount of time? What should we do for each other? We listen, but we also try not to overshare. But how do you define oversharing?
I buy his favorite peanut butter chocolates at the store. I support him when he wants to spend a Saturday playing video games online and don’t try to demand the weekend be spent together. I take care of some household issues. I cook healthy meals. I don’t know what else to do and it makes me feel helpless.
We spend so much time talking about how to help ourselves through anxiety and anxious times or helping our loved ones know how to help us—but what happens when we have to step back and help others? How do we balance? How do we take care of ourselves AND them?
I wish this post had answers to all these questions—that I could give you excellent advice like have special date nights to discuss what’s going on or our futures. Or making time for oneself and respecting the other’s personal time. Or upping one’s anxiety self-care game with additional activities or time as needed like reading or getting a massage. I think these are all good things, but I’m not sure they’re enough.
Sometimes, I just have to go in the other room and shut the door and have quiet to read and not think about the future or what’s going to happen—to not hear my husband on the phone or feel his radiating anxiety from across the room. I ignore my emails and texts. I try not to think about the future, but that’s all I can think about.
I worry and worry and worry. The rumination doesn’t end no matter what I do. I’m stuck in my brain’s overthinking cycle that takes simple everyday worries and turns them into catastrophes.
A simple event like being charged a higher copay at the pharmacy can send me into a tailspin and I know I need to stop, to change, to step back, to do SOMETHING to break these cycles. But it’s hard, so very hard.
Do others struggle with periods of time in which others are going through anxiety or stress that makes it hard to manage your own stress and anxiety? What do you do? How do you get through it?