“I’ve dealt with hard things. My son had survived stage 4 cancer. But now, my daughter has anxiety,” Nancy* said while wiping away a tear. “And [dealing with] this has been so much worse.”

Anxiety wreaks havoc on the whole family. It makes people sensitive, impatient, and irritable, causing conflict and insecurity. It causes them to need each other intensely, and push each other away at the same time. It sucks gobs of energy, exhausting everyone, and significantly cutting into any fun. And it eliminates joy from the day.

Anxiety is one of the most intense feelings that you can have, yet it is totally invisible. People who suffer with anxiety often feel misunderstood by their families and communities, and defending themselves only causes more conflict. The internal battle these people face also causes more insecurity. And when paired with the isolation that ensues, anxiety creates a downward spiral.

When you feel separated and different, you feel vulnerable, and that’s the way anxiety likes you to be. Without the feedback and reassurance of loved ones, it has an easier job getting you to believe in it’s lies.

However, you want to stay close to your loved ones, because these connections are the key to anxiety recovery. In order to do so, it’s good to have a common goal in your relationships. You all want the same thing after all: for this wretched anxiety to stop ruining yours and your family’s life.

Here’s how to get on the same page.

Families Want to Help

People who love you and see you suffering want to help you feel better. They feel frustrated if they can’t because standing by helplessly doesn’t feel good. When they are ineffective in their efforts, they get stressed and confused and conclude that they must not understand, even when they do understand.

Helping your loved ones help you is the answer. This means coming up with a plan, or a “toolbox” of plans to beat anxiety together.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Negotiate when they can push you past your comfort zone and when they can’t. Make this decision when anxiety is not around because the line will be different when you're anxious. When your family members enable you to avoid a certain situation, anxiety thrives. Everyone will feel better committing to do something for you, and not the anxiety.
  2. Make a plan for when you’re out in public. Feeling trapped increases anxiety. Having an exit plan helps you relax when you are headed into a situation that anxiety says will be uncomfortable. When you are more relaxed you may just have some fun!
  3. Do calming and self-care activities together. Have a movie night. Massage each other. Eat food that supports good gut health ( the two are linked ), meditate, and go for walks together.
  4. Make time to talk about anxiety. Dispel ambiguity. Getting your worries out will help you feel better, as well as help your family understand your anxiety better. Stress and anxiety outside the head is easier to handle than inside the head where it intensifies. Negotiate ahead of time what your family members should do when the intensity ramps up, so that they’ll be most helpful when necessary. Should they just listen, play devil’s advocate, or be a problem solver?
  5. Make “No Anxiety Talk” time. Have other things to talk about, too, so that thinking about anxiety doesn’t take up too much time and energy. Center your conversations on another family member. Get involved in other people’s lives, such as participating in volunteer activities, and do something creative around your home.
  6. Prioritize affection. Physical closeness is a great way to feel good about each other, have fun, and stave away anxiety.
  7. Let go of shame. Shame divides. It causes more problems when you are ashamed about having anxiety, potentially ruining your relationships, or being helpless. You haven’t done anything wrong. You do not need to hold onto this shame.

When families prevent anxiety from dividing them, everyone feels better. Anxiety is not a life sentence. It is possible to fully recover. But it will try to ruin your life by attempting to destroy your relationships. If you realize this, you and your family will be able to stick together, and anxiety will go away that much faster.

Jodi Aman wrote the bestseller, You 1, Anxiety 0 to help people win their life back from fear and panic. With sharp empathy into the complexities of people's pain — she has recovered from her own family chaos and panic attacks — and a keen understanding of how and why people get stuck there, Jodi has decided to dedicate her life to helping people feel less lonely and afraid.

Find her at www.JodiAman.com , and on Instagram and Facebook .

*Name has been changed