Adaa Tips For Handling Relationship Anxiety During Pandemic

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5 Tips for Handling Relationship Anxiety During the Pandemic — Featuring ADAA

Amber Brooks
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The Short Version: Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the prevention and treatment of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders. ADAA offers a free directory of therapists, an online support group, and other educational resources to help people manage their anxiety and depression. Couples can learn coping mechanisms and communication strategies from ADAA’s blog and use these tools to strengthen their relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most Americans understand the importance of regular checkups when it comes to physical health. They go to the dentist for cleanings twice a year, they visit the dermatologist to get moles checked, and they visit other medical professionals to prevent small issues from getting worse.

Unfortunately, that same attitude does not always extend to taking care of their mental health.

“When it comes to therapy, there’s still a stigma. People want to handle it on their own,” said David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP. “Now with COVID-19, we’re seeing levels of anxiety and depression going through the roof, and some people aren’t prepared to handle that.”

Dr. Rosmarin works alongside the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) as a member and founded the Center for Anxiety in New York to encourage people to look after their own mental and emotional well-being with at least the same diligence that they look after their teeth.

ADAA logo

Couples experiencing anxiety and depression can look to ADAA for practical solutions.

ADAA is an expert-led online resource that educates the public about issues surrounding anxiety and depression. The website features informative articles and peer-to-peer support groups to give people hope in hard times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many couples have faced relationship conflicts and mental health challenges that they may be unprepared to handle alone. Fortunately, ADAA can offer practical guidance and support for couples who are dealing with anxiety or depression. Here are five tips to help couples use this difficult time to work on their relationships and look after their mental health.

1. Learn to Recognize Triggers in Yourself & Your Partner

First of all, you need to take an honest assessment of your emotions and the emotions of your significant other. Look for the negative cycles and try to identify contributing factors or causes. For instance, maybe watching the news can trigger stress and anxiety, or maybe staying in bed while working from home can foster feelings of depression.

Couples can learn to recognize patterns by paying attention to when conflicts arise or how their mood fluctuates throughout the days, weeks, and months.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, cohabiting and married couples have had to lean on each other to get by, and it’s natural for issues to arise along the way. The crisis can be an opportunity for couples to reinforce their relationship and spend more time together — but they have to take on the challenges that come with that.

If you see your partner struggling with anxiety, it’s good to clear the air and ask what’s going on beneath the surface.

“Be supportive and ask if there is anything you can do to make things better,” Dr. Rosmarin recommended. “Be aware, be curious, and be nonjudgmental. Seek first to listen and understand.”

2. Join an Online Support Group for Anxiety & Depression

The pandemic has prompted some people to go into social isolation, and that’s a dangerous place for anyone struggling with anxiety and depression. They need to be able to reach out and talk through their emotions with people who can relate — and that’s what online support groups can offer.

ADAA manages a peer-to-peer community for people who experience chronic anxiety and depression. This forum encompasses over 50,000 members around the world and provides a friendly and responsive network for anyone seeking help.

“The pandemic has really given us a great opportunity to develop a deeper sense of connection with people around us,” Dr. Rosmarin said. “But we have to take the opportunity and seize the day.”

3. Communicate Your Needs in Clear & Specific Terms

Issues are going to come up in your relationship. It doesn’t matter how smart, strong, or happy you think you are, no couple is perfect all the time, and it takes work to make any relationship last. Partners can support each other’s mental health by being proactive and setting healthy boundaries.

Sit down and talk about the challenges you face as an individual and as a couple. Be clear about what you need from your partner to feel emotionally secure and safe. It could be as simple as a hug, or it could be a promise to never go to bed angry.

Photo of a couple sitting together

Couples should be honest and empathetic when discussing mental health challenges.

Having a calm and honest conversation about emotions can shed light on why a person behaves the way they do, and that knowledge can be instrumental in resolving arguments and miscommunications.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of talking to each other,” Dr. Rosmarin said. “If you’re in a relationship, show your vulnerability and allow your partner to take care of you. And if your partner needs you, try to step up, but if you’re having trouble, tell them and be frank about it.”

4. Find a Therapist to Talk Through Major Issues

The pandemic has prompted a mental health crisis in the U.S. The ADAA has tracked a 50% increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety on a national level. Fortunately, its network of more than 1,800 mental health professionals can help tackle issues as they arise.

The ADAA website provides a directory of therapists to meet people where they’re at and provide access to professional help when needed. Over the last year, many mental health providers have embraced telehealth options to keep in line with social distancing guidelines and expand access to its services.

Dr. Rosmarin  told us his practice has seen a growing demand for video therapy sessions, and the team has adapted to continue providing a safety network for New Yorkers facing anxiety and depression. The Center for Anxiety, which is based in New York, has a 40-member staff and sees about 1,000 cases a year.

5. Take Action to Find Peace of Mind in Difficult Times

ADAA has a growing library of expert content that can equip people to handle mental health challenges and build on their emotional intelligence. Its guides on reducing anxiety and cultivating a calm mindset can come in handy for couples facing high-stress situations — such as a pandemic.

Photo from the ADAA

ADAA challenges individuals and couples to change the narrative of their lives.

Feelings of anxiety can stem from being out of control in a situation. An individual person cannot control the coronavirus, the economy, or climate change, and obsessing over such problems isn’t helpful in solving them. Letting go of one’s need to be in control can be the first step to letting go of fear and anxiety.

ADAA’s member experts encourage individuals to redirect attention to the things they can do to invest in their own happiness and take greater control over their lives. Whether they’re focused on meditative breathing or learning a new skill, people can reduce their anxiety by putting their energy toward more constructive and healthy outlets.

Couples can get out of their own heads by engaging in outdoor activities or planning romantic dates. These experiences encourage people to be present and find happiness in their everyday routine.

ADAA Offers Resources to Help You Move Forward

If you skip going to the dentist every year, you may find yourself with quite a few cavities down the line. In the same way, if you’re not looking after your mental health by going to therapy, you could end up suffering from anxiety, depression, or another illness.

ADAA offers a directory of therapists, a library of articles, and a forum of sympathetic peers to help people invest in their mental and emotional well-being.

COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of many individuals, couples, and families, and it has highlighted the importance of resources likeADAA in reinforcing good mental health practices. Dr. Rosmarin recommends that people seek therapy in good times as well as bad times because the more knowledge you have, the better prepared you will be to face whatever is ahead.

“You have to learn to tolerate uncertainty,” Dr. Rosmarin said. “We’re now seeing rampant uncertainty, ambiguity, and lack of control, and the only solution is to cope with the reality that life is uncertain and be OK with that.”