Anxiety is difficult to maneuver, but it can be even more difficult when you add other people to the equation. Here are several possible scenarios of anxiety-related peer relationships, and tips on handling them.
- My partner has anxiety, but I don’t.
When it comes to anxiety in romantic relationships, this is a perfect opportunity to practice putting the needs of your partner in front of your own at times. Partners with anxiety can sometimes be embarrassed by their situation, especially when their counterpart does not have anxiety. In situations like these, it is important to understand that your partner does not always have control of their mood. You can do this by supporting them when they aren’t feeling themselves: this could take the form of canceling a date to stay in with them and make them more comfortable, steering conversations away from them in public if they are becoming anxious, or anything else that they may need. At times, it could be difficult for your partner to open up to you because they may be worried about bringing you down with them. No matter the situation, you can always reassure them that you care about them and support them, despite the hard times.
- I have anxiety, but my partner doesn’t.
While it is understandable that you may be hesitant to open up to your partner, the anticipation is usually worse than the real thing. You are with your partner for a reason, and it is important to trust that they will understand, and love you just the same. Anxiety can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy within a relationship: you may be worried that the anxiety could push your partner away, so you hide it away and try to bury those feelings; this, in turn, could inadvertently achieve the task that you were trying to avoid. The best way to approach a relationship while also dealing with anxiety is to be honest with your partner, so that they can help and support you, rather than attempting to continue dealing with it on your own.
- My best friend has anxiety and I want to understand them
Similar to the tactics that can be utilized in a romantic relationship, an important part of being a best friend is always being there for your counterpart. Sometimes it can be hard for someone to open up to a relationship partner because they may fear that their partner will lose romantic interest in them. Other times, it may be difficult for your friend to open up to their parents because they may worry that their parents will try to take action, inadvertently making the situation worse. The unique role of a best friend is the fact that your friend can open up to you and tell you anything, and nothing about the relationship necessarily has to change. As long as you listen to your friend and do your best to understand what they are going through, you have nothing to worry about!
- I have anxiety and I want my best friend to understand me better.
Also similar to romantic relationship tactics, trusting your friend is the first step to helping them understand you. I personally went through the struggle of whether or not to open up to my friends and when, but once I did, it made my relationship with my best friend so much easier. In fact, I found out that one of my best friends struggled with anxiety as well, but was nervous to tell me. Overall, trusting my friends and opening up to them is one of the best decisions I’ve made. For the friends who did not have anxiety, I did have to do a bit of explaining for them to more fully understand me, but in the end, it was absolutely worth it to no longer feel like I was hiding a part of myself from them.
Classmates at School
- I don’t have anxiety but I want to be a better peer at school.
An easy way to be a better peer at school is to question your immediate judgements. Let’s say, for instance, you see a classmate at school acting very distant and refusing to talk to anyone in the cafeteria. While an immediate judgement may be to think that this person is being rude or standoffish. But whenever you feel yourself making one of those unfair assumptions about someone, take a minute to think about what it may be like to walk in their shoes. Maybe they have a difficult family situation at home. Maybe they just ended a romantic relationship. Maybe they simply have anxiety and are having a tough day. No matter what someone’s situation is, you can always be a better classmate by resisting the urge to believe your snap judgements about others.
- I have anxiety and I want to be more comfortable at school.
While this may be a difficult task at times, as you cannot control how others behave, a good tactic for feeling comfortable at school is to surround yourself with people you trust and feel good around. This incorporates the methods used in the previously mentioned situations: by being honest and opening up to your close friends and/or relationship partner, you build a community of people that can help you feel more at home in a place like a school, which at times can feel very far from home.
Navigating peer relationships while dealing with anxiety can be a tricky situation, but a few good rules to always abide by are: listen, trust, understand different points of view, and withhold judgements. Anxiety within relationships of any kind is hard. But peer relationships, in particular, are incredibly important and need to be nourished in different ways than say, familial or professional relationships. Peer relationships have been proven to enhance overall well-being and reduce depression and anxiety. It is important to maintain healthy peer relationships because they can lead to a much more fulfilling life. Anxiety in peer relationships IS hard, but take the time to understand how you can help or express how you can be helped and it will make the world of difference in your life.
By: Jackie Miller, AiT Contributor