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Because family life matters

Supporting an anxious spouse

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Colonel (and soon-to-be Sir) Thomas Moore, perhaps better known to us as ‘Captain Tom’, has personified much of the nation’s will to respond to the current COVID-19 crisis with positivity and determination. In addition to his heroic efforts in raising an incredible £33 million for the NHS, many other well-documented acts of kindness, creativity, resourcefulness and generosity have lifted our spirits.

Sadly, though, that is not the whole story. A recent survey measuring the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of adults suggests that anxiety, depression, loneliness and self-harm are intensifying.All too familiar scenes of distress are increasingly playing out in urban high rises, suburban semis and rural communities across the UK as families seek to navigate the effects of lockdown in a climate of fear and uncertainty.

I will always be here for you

For those who are already anxious, the current crisis can feel like an emotional nightmare come true. Jane is married to Rick who has suffered from anxiety and depression for a number of years. Rick describes his anxiety as his constant companion – always lurking somewhere in the background. He said, “My mind can quickly spiral into a series of ‘what ifs’. I find myself catastrophising about the current situation, and before I know it, I feel completely overwhelmed. I’m overreacting all the time to everyday inconveniences and irritations.” In addition, he describes physical symptoms: fast breathing, palpitations, headaches and insomnia.

Over the years of their marriage, Jane has learnt to help Rick manage his anxiety and recognises the vital part their relationship plays in helping his general sense of wellbeing. She reflects, “I haven’t always got it right, and there have been some painful times, but at the end of the day there is no one who knows Rick better than me. In fact, I sometimes think I know him better than he knows himself. There have been seasons when we’ve had to rely on support from others, and counselling has helped enormously, but I know there are things I can do that will help his general sense of wellbeing.  Focusing on these things has been so important for us in getting through together.”

Whilst every situation is different, here are some ways to support an anxious partner during the pandemic:
  • Learn all you can about COVID-19 and the current situation, so you are well informed
  • Try to stay calm and don’t overreact
  • Remember you can’t fix it
  • Listen and try to understand how your partner feels
  • Remember this isn’t their fault
  • Focus on the qualities you love in them
  • Take control of the things you can
  • Establish routines (old and new)
  • Take a day at a time
  • Set short-term goals
  • Remember you are a team
  • Encourage them to get outside help and appropriate treatment (see below)
And most importantly …

Reach out to friends and make sure your own needs are met.

Kitchen

Rick comments:

Living with anxiety can be a lonely and difficult path, and whilst outside help and support has been essential, what has made the biggest difference is knowing that Jane has my back – we’re in this together and she is there for me come what may.

For further help:

 

1 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/19/concern-britons-feeling-trapped-lonely-during-lockdown-mental-health

Katharine Hill

About the author

Katharine Hill is the UK Director of Care for the Family. Katharine is a well-known speaker, author and broadcaster and regularly presents marriage and parenting events across the country. She is married to Richard and they have four grown-up children and two grandchildren.

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