How Anxiety Affects Women
Yesterday my wife and I had a difficult moment. We ended up traveling to the hospital around 8 pm due to her vision becoming blurred.
Not to worry, everything was okay.
Luckily the hospital was close to our home where we received much-needed assistance. My wife ended up having aura migraines. The funny thing “now looking at it” is that my wife thinks she has been having them for some time now.
While at the hospital, I sat there in the waiting room for a while waiting on the physician. During this time, I began to think “how does my wife do it”.
Not just my wife, but my mother and every other woman.
How can women manage so much anxiety?
At this moment I began to do some math. I thought to myself that most women have to deal with some of the stressors listed below:
- Social expectations of “how women should appear”; “how a female should speak or dress”; and more.
- Managing your own needs while carrying a baby.
- Managing your own needs while taking care of your kids and spouse.
- Carrying the stress of your family.
- Often being the person everyone comes to.
The list could really go on and on.
It’s clear as to why my wife or your spouse explodes at times. I honestly “do not know how she does it”.
As a counselor, it’s my moral obligation to provide supportive tools and strategies that can help manage your anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is any physical or cognitive (mental) distress that is negatively impacting you in life. This is what I like to call the simple definition. Commonly experienced as worry or stress.
How to help your wife with her anxiety:
1. Be a listening ear.
All you need to do is listen. Pretend that you are only allowed to communicate using non-verbal communication. Start there. Listen to her when she is disclosing her anxiety.
Measure her comfort. See if holding her or rubbing her back is supportive.
2. Reflect on what you could have done after the anxiety took place.
Wait until your wife has truly regained her emotional ground. Sit down and communicate with her on “what you could have done (if anything at all) to support her”. This may be skipped over at times due to your wife, simply saying “nothing”. I want to encourage you to give recommendations.
- “Would it have helped if I rubbed your back?”
- “Would me leaving the room help?”
3. Try therapy for the two
If your wife attends therapy, ask and see if you can tag along. Be there as a support system. Be sure to ask questions and inquire about what you can do to help your wife with anxiety. If your wife is not comfortable with the idea, “do not be alarmed”. Remember, counseling is often a delicate relationship built upon trust and honesty that is special to the individual. Your wife may feel that your attending is breaking something in the counseling atmosphere. Respect her decision. Call a local therapist and see who can help you with understanding your spouse.
4. Support her – DO NOT shame her
Anxiety attacks can literally happen with no cue. BOOM! and when it happens it often leaves the individual devastated and in need of support. Be there for your wife in a patient and supportive manner. Do not shame her for something that she can not control or for something that she is working to overcome.
What are the common symptoms of anxiety?
- Consistent worry over things in your life that you often have limited control over. For instance, “will the people at the party like me”; “will my boyfriend’s family or friends like me”.
- Hand tremors, rapid heartbeat, or excessive worry when in an uncomfortable situation.
- States of daydreaming. You basically pretend to listen to someone but at the middle or end of the conversation you are sitting there like “what did they just say?”
- Problems sleeping due to consistently thinking about thoughts that may be irrational, out of your control, or simply causing excessive worry. For instance, “will I get the pay raise I’ve been working so hard for?”; “how are we going to pay all these bills?”
- Overeating or not desiring to eat (when anxious).
4 coping skills to manage anxiety
1. Deep breathing.
4x4x4 is an exercise that I came up with a while back. It’s really simple. Inhale for a duration of 4 seconds, exhale for a duration of 4 seconds and practice it 4 times. The difference is this exercise and what you may be doing now is that in this exercise you are (a) focusing on your breathing and numbers versus the anxiety (b) you are engaged in a true deep breathing cycle.
2. Practice playing out situations that cause anxiety in your head or life.
For instance, if you grow anxious when going to job interviews – “I want you to drive to the interview site the day before and become familiar with your setting/environment. Do research on the company so that you feel more comfortable and in control. Lastly, practice interview questions”. Overall, this technique provides you with a feeling of control and security.
3. Write down positive “I” statements.
These are statements that impact your anxiety-driven thoughts. For instance, if you grow anxious due to the thought “if I don’t get this job my life will be over”. Write down some positive “I” statements and post them in your home, car or phone. An example of positive “I” statements may include, “I’ve been through many difficult times in life and have always made It through”.
4. Surround yourself with supportive individuals.
If you feel comfortable – include your friends and family in your anxiety so that they may be your sounding board or reinforcement during difficult times.