I've been in a relationship for 4 years. We've got a fun vibrant relationship. Lots of laughter. For the past few months, my girlfriend has been really stressed out. Lately her anxiety has picked up. She can get paralyzed with fear and feeling overwhelmed with work. I know to not be judgmental with her, but kind of lost after that. I'm wondering if you had any other strategies for helping her cope during these times of panic? What do I do when she freaks out? Also, I'm beginning to sense that it's causing strain and stress in our own relationship. thanks.
Stress On Stress
I THINK THE BEST thing you can do is
Truth is, while you could kind of help contain the situation, the changes really need to come from her or from her workload. She could try and space things out, but you've both probably considered that and rejected it for some good reason. The other thing she can do is start to take some initiative to stem the anxiety before it matures into full-blown hysteria.
One way to do that is through managing her thoughts a little better. In essence, being aware of the pattern that she gets into--e.g., ruminating, magnifying the negative, discounting positives, etc.--and starting to think very fast, and probably breathe very fast or short. It's kind of like DDOSing a website, which is Nerdspeak for flooding a website with so many requests that it shuts down. The mind kind of gets overloaded and just starts shutting down. That's probably also the source of the friction you're starting to see in your relationship: the mental overloading is starting to affect her mood, making her less pleasant, more irritable, and less sympathetic too. All normal, bee tee dubs.
So, her job is going to be to notice what's been happening, and start to catch it in the early stages, when the thoughts are only going 15 mph. That's when she can pause, take a step back, and say "okay, I know I tend to focus on the negative, think about everything that I have to do, think about everything unfair and irritating, and skip from one topic to the next. Instead, I'm going to gently remind myself that 1) fuck this shit, 2) I'm a good person, I'm doing well, and I don't need to be perfect, 3) there's some good stuff going on that I actually enjoy, and finally 4) I'm probably going to do pretty well and get all my shit done in the end because Imma gangsta." Then take a really deep breath and maybe ask you how you're doing, or maybe share something funny that happened at work, you know, like how she punched her supervisor in the face. awkward, fear-infused laugh
What I just gave you is kind of a makeshift cognitive-behavioral technique for managing anxiety. You could suggest, gently, and probably from a safe distance no less than 15 feet, that she make an appointment with someone who's well-versed in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Five-to-ten sessions are probably enough to really help. There're books available too, but having someone to talk to is nice and you can ask questions. From a safe distance.
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