Sharon Martin

Easing Your Anxiety When You’re Worried About A Loved One

I guest posted for Sharon Martin's blog Happily Imperfect on Psych Central. Here's her introduction followed by my post"

Have you spent a sleepless night worrying about a loved one? Perhaps it was your teenager who was out past curfew or your spouse who didn’t manage her diabetes. Feeling anxious in such a  situation is understandable. It’s scary to feel like things are out of your control and possibly heading for disaster.

When you have a loved one who is making “bad” decisions, worry can take over your life if you don’t know how to keep it in check. My colleague, Elizabeth Cush, an expert in treating anxiety, wrote this week’s blog post to support those of you who are experiencing worry and anxiety about a loved one.

Easing Your Anxiety When You’re Worried About A Loved One
by Elizabeth Cush, LCPC

woman worrying.jpg

It’s really hard to watch someone make bad or harmful choices or to see a loved one make decisions you wouldn’t have made given the same circumstances. Maybe you worry because:

  • They drink or smoke too much
  • They can’t control their anger
  • They quit their job
  • They hang out with “the wrong” people
  • They gamble
  • They don’t pay their bills

I know that as a mother, wife, and friend, I have had times when one or more of the people in my life did things that made me feel worried, angry, or hurt (and sometimes all three). It was hard not to get consumed by the worry. So, how do you stop worrying and quiet your mind when you’re concerned about a loved one but powerless to get him or her to change or make better decisions?

Anxiety shows up when we can’t control things

Relationships can create the perfect storm of emotional ups and downs, bringing with them waves of anxiety. We want the people in our lives to be happy. We don’t want them to struggle, to feel pain, or to cause pain and suffering, but we really can’t control a lot of what others do. That can bring on a lot of anxious feelings.

If you experience anxiety, this lack of control can make your anxiety worse. You might believe that if you could just control this thing — whether it’s someone else’s behaviors, life events, or future outcomes — then you would feel better. You stay awake worrying about what needs to be different, what needs to change, and how to make that happen. You get stuck in the “what ifs,” or “if onlys.” But the reality is that you can’t control many of the things going on around you. I might even venture to say you can’t control MOST things!

The need for control increases anxiety

My clients sometimes say, “if only my loved one wouldn’t __________ (you fill in the blanks). It’s ruining everything. I’ve told them time and again that they need to stop. I can’t sleep at night because I worry about what will happen.”

Worrying increases stress and it doesn’t create change or stop bad things from happening; it only makes you more stressed. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t worry about the people you love. I am saying is that the worry won’t make it better, and sometimes it makes you so stressed that it becomes hard to do anything else.

How to ease your anxiety when worries take over

So how do you ease the anxiety that arises when the people in your life aren’t cooperating? Here are seven steps to get you started:

  1. Take three slow deep breaths.
  2. Be curious about the part of you that wants to be able to control the behaviors of others. Maybe you say to yourself, “There’s a part of me that wants to keep things under control. I wonder what that part is afraid of?”
  3. Remind yourself that your anxiety is prompted by your fears about the future and of not being in control.
  4. Gently remind yourself that you can voice your concerns or opinions, but it’s up to others to make changes. A gentle reminder to yourself might be, “I can’t control what others choose to do or not do. I can only tell them how their behavior affects me and how I feel.”
  5. If the people in your life don’t change, be mindful that this might cause you distress. You might feel anxious or scared. You might say out loud,  “I’m so afraid because __________ isn’t changing. It makes me feel powerless and I worry about what might happen if they don’t change.”
  6. If someone’s behavior hurts you or puts you at risk, it’s important to create healthy boundaries or choose to spend time away from that person. If you’re not comfortable doing this, you might need to practice or get some support.
  7. Offer yourself some compassion. You might still feel worried about the people in your life. Saying to yourself, “This is really hard for me right now. I care about them, and I care about how they’re affecting me” creates a space where you can feel compassionate toward them and toward yourself.

Wanting the best for others is human. We want the people we love to make healthy choices, but that doesn’t always happen. If you need support and someone to help you work through the difficulty, seeing a therapist can provide a safe, non-judgmental space where you can share your feelings.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Embracing Your Imperfections Guest Blog

Instead of walking the tightrope of "being perfect" try being self-compassionate instead

Instead of walking the tightrope of "being perfect" try being self-compassionate instead

I’m excited to share my guest post for Sharon Martin’s blog, Happily Imperfect, on Pysch Central!

Striving for perfection can increase anxiety because it’s an impossible task.

Being mindful of our internal response when we make mistakes and bringing more self-compassion into our lives when we’re imperfect, can reduce our stress and anxiety!

Check out the blog post, Embracing Your Imperfections Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety. And if you would like to be learn how to be more mindful and self-compassionate you can check out my mindfulness group beginning in October. There are a few spots left and early enrollment discounts are available.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Asking for Help and Setting Boundaries During The Holidays

Over the last few weeks I’ve shared some tips on how to manage holiday stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You can see the full post with 30 tips here, and the shorter posts on self-care and how to get organized to reduce your stress, for those who like to consume information in smaller chunks. 

This week I’m sharing tips on how to ask for help and set boundaries over the holidays. For some of us, creating, setting or keeping boundaries can be super hard. We feel guilty about saying no, we help others and often put their needs before our own, we don’t want to be a burden to others when asking for help, and we worry that others will be mad at us if we do say “no.”

Without clear boundaries you might feel underappreciated, irritated with others, taken for granted, anxious, stressed out, and you might not know why you feel overwhelmed with all of these feelings.  

Setting Boundaries Can Reduce Your Anxiety And Stress

Setting limits and creating boundaries allows you to tell others what you want or need without feeling guilty, you feel less burdened and you establish healthier relationships.

Relationships flourish with healthy bondaires

Say “no.”

Saying “no” isn’t easy, but saying “yes” to everyone and everything often leads to anxious, overwhelmed, resentful and irritated feelings.

Ask for help.

Asking for help can be difficult for people pleasers. You hope others will know what you want because asking for help feels vulnerable and needy. You might think your partner, friends or family can read your mind, but it’s not likely! The thing is, when you ask friends and family to help take care of the kids, your dog, or whatever it can relieve your stress and anxiety. Expressing what you need also allows others to help you out, and that can make them feel good too.

Manage others’ expectations.

Promising everyone everything they ask for will only lead to you feeling even more overwhelmed. Let your family and friends know your limits and stick to them. You’ll be able to accomplish what you need to do and you’ll feel more productive and empowered.

Let go of perfectionism.

You don't need to be perfect this holiday

I love Pinterest, but having happy holidays doesn’t mean that you have to try every Pinterest idea to create that “perfect” holiday experience.

Be kind to yourself.

When you forget to order something or forget to be somewhere you were supposed to be, know that you are not alone. Thousands of us out there are forgetting things, too. Instead of beating yourself up, offer yourself some words of comfort and know that you’re human, just like the rest of us.

A good resource to help you in this process is the workbook, Setting Boundaries Without Guilt by Sharon Martin, LCSW.  She writes, when you’re a people pleaser and are always doing for others “you compromise your own needs to make other people happy.”

Counseling can also help you learn how to set healthy boundaries so that you can live your life with more self-confidence and less stress, anxiety and resentment. If you think counseling might be helpful to you call me @410-340-8469 or email me.

Photos courtesy of Ian Schneider and Ellie Lord for