Relationships are complex and dynamic, whether it’s a relationship with your significant other or your boss. Depending on the relationships that were modeled for you growing up, plus a variety of other factors, you might very well end up suffering from relationship anxiety at some point.
If you’ve never heard of relationship anxiety, you’re not alone. Even those experiencing it firsthand might not be able to put their finger on it exactly. So what does the term mean — and how can you avoid this type of anxiety? Read on to find out.
What Is Relationship Anxiety?
Relationship anxiety, at its simplest, is a type of anxiety that keeps you from having healthy relationships. It manifests in different ways in different people. You might feel insecure in your relationships or undeserving of love. Maybe you’re hesitant to trust others.
Regardless of how the anxiety shows up, it can significantly undermine and damage your relationships.
How Can You Avoid It?
First, don’t worry. If you’re having trouble with your relationships, there’s a way to turn things around. Follow these six steps to reverse the effects of relationship anxiety:
1. Face the Issue
First thing’s first: admit that the issue is there. If you can’t even confront the fact that you’re having negative thoughts and feelings about a relationship, you can’t begin to fix it. So start to pay attention to how you’re feeling and consider whether or not it may be relationship-associated anxiety.
2. Determine Your Attachment Style
There are four different kinds of attachment: dismissive-avoidant, anxious-preoccupied, fearful-avoidant or secure.
You can probably guess that “secure” is the healthiest attachment style. Those who had positive experiences in early relationships (e.g. with parents, siblings and childhood friends) likely have high self-esteem and lower levels of anxiety.
If you fall into any of the other categories, work with a professional to deal with any underlying factors.
3. Be Mindful
Those dealing with relationship anxiety tend to spend too much time focused on the other person’s needs and feelings and not enough time taking care of themselves. Practice the act of stopping to check in with yourself when you get worked up about a situation with a friend, coworker or significant other.
Remember that your feelings and thoughts are just as valid as anyone else’s.
4. Learn to Communicate
Once you learn the appropriate way to check in with yourself, master the art of communicating correctly with another person.
First, consider how they communicate. If the person prefers concrete plans and timelines, speak to them in these terms. If they’re more in tune with emotions and thoughts, start there. The most important part of this process is paying attention to the other person and the way they interact so you can communicate effectively with them.
5. Stop Overthinking
There’s a difference between overthinking and anxiety, but one can lead to the other. If you mull over a situation with another person more than you really should, that’s an instance of overthinking.
Overthinking is normal and it should be easy to stop once you identify it. Anxiety, however, is when you play a scenario on a loop until it nearly drives you crazy. Stop overthinking as soon as you notice it. This will keep normal overthinking from spiraling into abnormal anxiety.
6. Practice Empathy
Empathy involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and going for a walk. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it’s an important part of any relationship — and practicing empathy can help to alleviate relationship anxiety.
To start, try active listening. This involves truly soaking in what someone is saying — not just waiting for your turn to talk — and responding thoughtfully. When you really hear what someone else says, it’s harder to dream up negative situations that don’t exist.
Put It Into Practice
Now that you have some tools to help you fight relationship anxiety, take them into your daily life. Practice these steps with your significant other, friends and family, co-workers and boss — or anyone you encounter, really. You may be pleasantly surprised by the ways your relationships improve.
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