How Connection Can Help Ease Anxiety

In a recent blog post, I shared my own struggle with anxiety. Afterward, people gave me a lot of great feedback, and a few shared their own personal stories about their struggles with anxiety. I got permission from a friend to share her story so that others might be able to gain some insight from her experience. Although her story is uniquely hers, I have experienced similar feelings, as have many of my clients.

Anxiety Can Leave You Feeling Disconnected

 Anxiety can leave you feeling disconnected.

My friend has battled anxiety and depression for some time. She’s been doing all the right things — seeing her primary care doctor, using medication and going to counseling. She said she also tries things like “getting a massage, taking time to journal, reading self help books and listening to CDs about happiness, joy, guided imagery, affirmations, mindfulness etc.”

All of these things were helpful in the moment. She said she would be left with “fleeting moments of feeling uplifted and then fall right back to feeling overwhelmed by life, anxious and depressed.”

The thing about anxiety and depression is that they can take over your life on many levels. For example, when you’re feeling down or overly stressed, it’s hard to reach out for help; in turn, this can leave you feeling isolated, as if you’re alone with your struggle. Even though you might see co-workers, chat by text, or connect on Facebook, feeling disconnected can stop you from reaching out in meaningful ways to the people in your life who matter most — your partner, your best friend, your college roommate… You fill in the blank.

As for my friend, she had slowly lost touch with the people in her life she felt the most connected to. One of her friends was busy with her own issues, so she was no longer as available as she had been, leaving my friend feeling even more disconnected. “I was hit with the fact that my support system had become WAY too small, and her ‘disappearance’ really left me floundering.”

Reconnection Can Help Ease Anxious Feelings

Many studies have shown that a sense of being disconnected can lead to feelings of loneliness, alienation and a lack of purpose. The authors of a study published in the January 2015 issue of Psychology in the Schools found that that students with anxiety are at significant risk of loneliness, which can then lead to depression. The good news is that connectedness has been found to help protect against depression.

My friend sought counseling. When she continued to fall back into her anxious and depressive feelings, she and her counselor realized that she was missing the kind of human connection that allowed her to feel heard and supported.  Together, they came up with a plan and homework for her to reach out to people she’d lost touch with.

 Reaching out to friends can lessen relieve anxious feelings

My friend said, “the reconnection has been a real lift” for her and the friends she reached out to. She decided to make more of an effort to talk to her friends more regularly. She plans to continue to reach out to old friends and work toward building new meaningful relationships. For the moment she is feeling optimistic. “I have been impressed with how much better I feel after a meaningful 15-minute conversation.”

Do you have a story to share about your journey with anxiety? Please share your comments below.

If you are feeling disconnected, anxious and in need of support, please call me at 410-340-8469 for a free 15-minute consultation.

Photos by Abi Lewis and Priscilla Westra for unsplash.com

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a counselor in Annapolis, Md. She owns and operates Progression Counseling.