Anxiety. It’s a word we hear alot in our everyday lives, but what is it really?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress and it presents itself differently depending on the person experiencing it. Feelings can range from butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. You may even feel out of control, like there’s a disconnect between your mind and body, or you may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a specific place or event. Coping with and managing anxiety can be difficult, but learning to soothe ourselves and keep some certain key points in mind, is important.

Make time for self care. Whether that’s keeping a routine for yourself, exercise, eating well, making time for social connections (via technology or in person), blocking off an hour at the end of your day strictly to unwind and getting good sleep, or if it’s more activity based such as picking up a new hobby, making time for an old one and even just having sex (which works wonders for both your mood, your health, and your connection with your partner/self), self care is key.

We call this “slowing down to gain ground”. To gain objectivity about a particular worry or feeling, we must slow down and take a step back. This is not to say you should shy away from feeling whatever it is you’re currently feeling. Feelings are important as they’re the clues to let your body and your mind know what’s needed, but they’re not always set in stone. One metaphor could be that feelings are the wind necessary to sail a sailboat. While the wind makes the boat move, the captain steers the boat in the direction they want the boat to go. You could let the boat steer itself, but you’d quickly have a problem as the boat needs the captain to steer it. Think of your relationship with yourself and your partner as the boat, and you as the captain.

In a relationship, it’s sometimes easy to think If my partner really loved me, felt for me, these things I’m asking for would come naturally” however that’s not necessarily true. Our partners trigger certain thoughts and feelings within us, but sometimes those thoughts and feelings have a connection to our past and can bring up past trauma. To be successful in your relationship, be that with your partner or yourself, you must train yourself to work against the trigger and not focus on the past, but instead, focus on the future and the life you’re building. If you can’t control your emotions, you can still try to control your behavior to work through the anxiety that’s building, shift your thinking, and end up with a positive outcome.

If you don’t struggle with anxiety but your partner does, take the time to talk with your partner and learn where their triggers are coming from, where their vulnerabilities are, and develop empathy and respect for their pain.

At the end of the day, we should want to change negative behaviors for ourselves, not our partners, and it may be a conscious effort everyday to try and slow down, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

To learn more about anxiety and slowing down to gain ground, keep an eye on our Podcast, Sex and Couples Therapy with The Happy Ending Therapist! We dive right in to slowing down to gain ground, and some tools you can start using right away at home!