Maintain a routine and follow it as much as possible when helping someone cope with anxiety. This means having the person continue to complete household chores, encouraging them to eat well, go to bed consistently, and preserve other daily rituals.
"A lot of caregivers, especially women, think that if they shoulder the bulk of tasks around the home that it'll make life easier for the person with anxiety," said Gundersen Behavioral Health nurse practitioner Jennifer Fiegel-Newlon.
In reality, taking away structure usually complicates the problem and can make the person with anxiety feel like they're inadequate or haven't been doing a good enough job around the house.
"You want to keep the person engaged and functional and doing the things that will help to keep their mind busy so that they're not left to just sit and worry," Fiegel-Newlon said.
It also can be helpful to routinely check in with the person. Asking simple questions about how they're doing, especially when you notice the person seems overwhelmed, can offer your loved one a much-needed pause from their thoughts and redirect their anxiety.
Some questions to try include:
- What's on your mind?
- How does your body feel right now?
- How can I help?
There also cellphone apps they can help them check in with their thoughts throughout the day and ground themselves. Some apps are free. Test out a few and find one that fits their needs.
Take care of yourself
With so much attention often focused on the person with anxiety, it's important to remember to prioritize yourself, too.
"It's really easy to get caught up in the caregiver role," Fiegel-Newlon said.
To prevent feeling burned out or overwhelmed, make time to eat healthy meals, get quality sleep and move your body every day.
"Exercise doesn't have to be training for a marathon or doing a huge amount of activity," Fiegel-Newlon said. "It can be walking outside to your garden, smelling the flowers, taking a stroll around your neighborhood or playing with a pet outdoors—anything small that offers a change of scenery."
After all, research shows that just 15 minutes outside can improve your mood and calm you.
No matter what self-care looks like for you, remember:
"It's important to prioritize your mental health as well," Fiegel-Newlon said. "If you're not taking care of your well-being, it's difficult to support someone with anxiety."
We're here to help with anxiety
If you're impacted by anxiety and ready for help, our Behavioral Health providers are here for you and your partner, in-person and by video.
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