feet on a red tightropeAnxiety affects everyone to some degree. Quite simply we live in an anxious world. Anxiety can range from occasional, mild unease in anticipation of an event to constant, overwhelming panic. It goes by many names including worry, nerves, freaking out, stressed, tense.

Anxiety also effects our personal relationships.

Anxiety in a nutshell

Anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be helpful in putting us on alert. Anxiety is our body’s signal to pay attention and be ready to act. This is useful in preparing us to respond effectively to life’s curve balls. However severe anxiety can be debilitating and make problem solving very difficult, if not impossible. It is ironic that anxiety seems to press us to make decisions and take action yet at the same time greatly inhibits our ability think clearly and do either of these.

Additionally anxiety can have a negative and profound impact on our relationships with others in a variety of ways.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Mild symptoms of anxiety include: slight restlessness, difficulty focusing on the task at hand and trouble falling asleep.

Symptoms of severe anxiety can include: insomnia, headaches, muscle trembling, nausea, sweating/flushing, stomach distress, irritability, compulsive behavior and even panic attacks

Long term effects

There is a correlation between anxiety and stress hormones. It maybe that an overproduction of cortisol and other stress hormones creates anxiety but more likely high levels of anxiety cause an overproduction of stress hormones. These hormones cause a host of physiological responses including an elevated heart rate and slowed digestion. When you really need to be in fight or flight mode these are advantageous changes. However if your body is constantly or even frequently on high alert, the result is often exhaustion and emotional fatigue.

Impact on relationships

If you are struggling with anxiety you are probably well aware of how much it is impacting your relationships. It can interfere with your ability to connect with others. I think of anxiety as a pesky pest that is demanding your attention despite whatever or whoever else also needs your time and attention. It is hard to be present in your life when anxiety is always whispering in your ear that there is much to do or worry about and no time to wait. New research shows that anxiety makes it hard to have empathy for others or see things from their perspective. If you have ever experienced high anxiety, that finding will be of no surprise to you.

Anxiety is also exhausting on others. Anxiety can act like a force field and push away others. For many people there is a natural instinct to pull away from anxiety and high stress situations. However anxiety can also pull others in and soon everyone is sitting in the same soup of anxiety. In couples and families the increased irritability that results from anxiety can have loved ones turning on each other instead of supporting each other and working together to address issues.

Working with Anxiety from a Narrative perspective

I work from a Narrative perspective so I see anxiety as separate from people and explore the impact that anxiety has on the person, their abilities and their relationships. This separation helps the person and their loved ones work together (instead of against each other) and fight back against anxiety.

How I can help?

A huge benefit of relationship counseling or couples therapy is that the conversations that may not be productive at home have the opportunity to turn out differently in my therapy office. At home, attempts at productive conversations may get cut short by life’s busyness or strong emotions or they might not happen at all. In my office, the environment is relaxing. I am skilled at facilitating conversations, listening and asking questions. When the conversations are more relaxed (even if they aren’t easy) it makes it easier to hear one another. As a neutral participant, I’m able to highlight common ground and positives as well as trouble spots.

I’ve been licensed since 1990 and I love to help people improve their relationships. I am easy to talk to, supportive and empowering. I collaborate with you to find workable solutions to your relationship struggles and find ways to limit anxiety’s impact on your relationship. Please call at 707-765-2635 if you have questions about how I can help or you are ready to set up an appointment.