I was just blessed with having almost my whole immediate family here with me. At this visit, we had up to fourteen people in the house. Each so different and yet in so many ways the same. We did the usual tourist-y stuff, made campfires, talked, cooked and ate together, and just shared time. Something we hadn’t done in a very long time. Seeing four generations in the house interacting and working through everyday problems was somewhat enlightening. It’s funny how some things stay the same and some changes can be beyond the understanding of others. The family trait that drew the most attention this week was Anxiety. It runs in the family and we actually had the opportunity to talk to each other of our differing experiences with it. The various extremes of it and means of coping are different for each individual. For some it’s situational; maybe a response to a bad relationship, sustained work or family stress, or uncomfortable situations. For others it’s been a daily battle with no identified origin that has seemed almost crippling at times. Medication helps alleviate the symptoms for some. For others, resolving situations is the solution (although it may take some time to realize this, come to accept it is necessary, then take action). One thing is for sure, one coping skill does not work for everyone, and it is the same outside the family.
Anxiety is not the same for everyone which means that even though one may have experienced an anxiety attack in the past, s/he does not know exactly what their loved one is going through at this time, as was so poignantly pointed out during a particular incident. So what to do?
- Give space / Be close
- Talk to / Don’t talk, just be present
- Encourage breathing / Role model deep breathing in hopes they will sync with you
- Gentle touch, if they allow
- Encourage a change of environment
- Let your loved one know that they are in control, they may not feel it, but Don’t Take It by taking over.
- And no, it is not a good idea to give someone your medication. Different medications work differently for different people and could be dangerous.
- Encourage counseling, where your loved one may be able to learn some new coping skills and find what works best for them.
Family is truly a blessing. We can learn so much from each other about what to do and what not to do. For some family is a source of strength, support, and encouragement. For others, it’s different. But even in a dysfunctional environment, one can learn and draw strength. And, on the flip side, that “supportive” environment could deter one’s drive or create a sense of entitlement. In the end, it is up to each one of us to determine our path, to be in control, and to create our vision of our own lives.