Dealing with anxiety in a long-distance relationship is manageable when you have the right tools. Here, I provide tips and coping skills that I’ve used and have worked for many people.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you’ll know by now that it comes with some side effects. The main ones are, of course, missing your partner, navigating time zones, and finding ways to connect virtually. But there’s another big one that’s even stronger during the pandemic: uncertainty.
Under normal times, you can book a flight to see your loved one and expect that you’ll make it on that date. But in the new ‘Corona era’ there’s always a chance your trip will be canceled last minute. That uncertainty leads to anxiety and even panic attacks for so many people.
I’ve also suffered from high anxiety in the Coronavirus. It often makes it hard to manage other things in life: work, friendships, exercising, and daily decisions. I sought some help for that and started seeing a therapist online, through BetterHelp.
Since then, I’ve learned so much through my therapist, online Groupinars, and other reading and research. I decided to share what has worked for me (and others), to give you some guidance on dealing with anxiety in a long-distance relationship.
How to Recognize Anxiety
Anxiety looks different from person to person, and that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to spot in when you’re in the moment. Before I started looking into it, I didn’t know it was anxiety causing my out-of-control emotions. I thought this was just a result of bad external situations.
I was sure that once things calmed down my emotions would go back to normal. When that didn’t happen, I knew something else was going on.
It’s up to each person to identify what their anxiety looks like and to find tools and solutions for managing it.
As a starting point, here are are some common symptoms of anxiety:
Some professionals call this overthinking. It’s where one thing goes wrong and you snowball the situation in your mind, making it seem bigger and bigger, until you’ve imagined the worst possible outcomes. Soon, those disasters don’t even feel imaginary, but like a set-in-stone realities.
If your worrying is focused on your long-distance relationship, you might end up thinking,
My partner hasn’t answered me in a while. They want to break up. Or they’re cheating on me.
It’s been so long since we last saw each other, they probably met someone else and are afraid to tell me.
We’ve hardly spent any time in person, we won’t have anything in common when we finally see each other again.
Corona will last so long, we’ll never be able to travel again.
When there’s a problem, it seems like the end of the world. Every bump in the road feels like an impossible hurdle. This is called catastrophizing.
That’s where statements like these come in:
This is terrible.
I can’t deal with this.
It’s a nightmare.
If you’re approaching situations with these attitudes and statements, you are actually criticizing yourself. You’re saying that YOU don’t have the strength to handle the situation, that YOU don’t have what it takes to get through this.
These thoughts are extremely damaging because you’re questioning your own worth and strength. Chipping away at your self-esteem will weaken you, making these statements start to feel true. You have to remind yourself that you are stronger than your circumstances.
When you engage yourself in a cycle of negative beliefs, you get into a trap of limiting yourself. When you have general anxiety, those thinking traps can happen in any area of life. In my copywriting business, I sometimes fall into negativity.
I’m not good at my job.
My business isn’t successful.
Do these sound familiar?
When you’re dealing with separation anxiety in a long-distance relationship, those thinking traps are centered around your relationship.
We’re not good together.
We can’t work through our problems.
I’m not a good partner.
These hardships aren’t worth it.
But think about it. If you wake up every day and tell yourself these statements over and over, aren’t you going to believe them? Because like it or not, what you believe is how you act.
Coping Skills for Dealing With Anxiety: Tips and Tools
So now that we’ve covered all the damage anxiety can do if left untamed, I’ll share powerful tools for you to access when you feel anxiety rearing its ugly head.
Build Self Awareness
Anxiety shows up when you’re least expecting it. But by becoming self-aware, you can pinpoint areas in your life where anxiety is most likely to show up. These areas are called triggers.
It all goes way back to your body’s flight or fight mode. When you’re in a situation your body perceives as threatening, you develop physical reactions to protect yourself from that fear. It’s actually a good thing in small doses.
If we weren’t alert, we wouldn’t have a sense of urgency when we need it. We wouldn’t rise above the competition in our careers. We wouldn’t exercise because we wouldn’t feel the need. There are many ways we excel because of that natural instinct.
But in many ways, that reactive emotion blows out of control and we end up with anxiety. Here are questions to ask yourself to become more self-aware.
What 3 situations trigger my anxiety?
Maybe missing my boyfriend, long distance. Possibly a canceled flight. Hearing about a new rise in Coronavirus cases.
What are 3 physical reactions my body does to respond?
That could be chest pain, a hot face, crying, or anger.
What are 3 thoughts I have when I feel anxious?
Thinking about where your mind typically goes will help you bring it back to safety and reality when you find yourself in these moments.
What are 3 successful actions I can take to cope when I feel anxiety coming on?
Making a plan ahead of time will alleviate half of the work. Plan to do things like taking a walk or treating yourself to fresh fruit or a cup of tea.
Experiment! Find what helps you calm down and feel pleasure instead of panic.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
These are pretty hot buzzwords, but have you actually tried them out for yourself?
Our minds can take us to some dark and bizarre places. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you bring your mind back to the present and simply focus on what’s going on NOW.
To bring you to the present, zoom in on your 5 senses. What do you feel on your skin? What are you hearing? What are you tasting? What do you see? Can you smell anything?
But don’t just practice mindfulness when you’re in the midst of a panic attack. Make it a daily habit. As a matter of fact, if you’re not being mindful every day, you’re unlikely to put it into practice when you’re actually experiencing anxiety.
So implement that tactic when you’re doing daily activities, and it’ll come to you when you need it.
Meditation is a more intense version of mindfulness. The main purpose is to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, consciously notice what it’s thinking about and acknowledge it Then let it pass.
Personally, this kind of meditation is difficult for me. When I’m sitting there, I think, “What is the purpose of this? What am I supposed to be doing?” So I recommend guided meditations instead. Listen to a soothing voice who can guide you as you focus on bringing your mind to the present moment.
Use Positive Affirmations
Remember those negative thoughts that lead to a thinking trap? The perfect counter curse (if you’re a Harry Potter fan) is positive affirmations. When you wake up believing negative thoughts about yourself or your relationship, turn them positive with these affirmations:
I am great at my job because it’s my passion, and I’m dedicated to improving daily.
I have a successful business. I get new clients, one at a time.
I will see my partner again. And it will be wonderful.
We will both work hard to get through our problems. It won’t be easy, but we’ll take them as they come.
I’m becoming a better partner every day.
We love each other. We’re committed to enduring hardships to reap the benefits in the end.
Control What You Can
Even in the most uncertain times, there’s always something you can control. If you haven’t seen your partner in months, you’re probably horny and missing that physical intimacy.
So get creative! Try sexting to fill in that missing connection. Some say sexting is just a teaser or they feel awkward doing it.
But trying out new things is a solid way to build intimacy with your partner. Plus, when you try out new things together you’re forging a bond as you work toward a common goal.
When your partner is asleep (because time zones) and you’re feeling lonely in a long-distance relationship, use this time to reach out to your friends. You have to maintain valuable friendships too.
Check up on your friends and make sure they’re doing okay in the pandemic too. Have social distancing hangouts; order take-out to support a local small business.
Get More Help If You Need It/Can Afford It
If you feel like you’d benefit from seeing a therapist about your anxiety, you can use my link at BetterHelp to get a free week (and I’ll get one too!). They offer sliding scale payments if you’re affected by the Coronavirus or have low income, so that can help with the cost.
Dealing with anxiety in a long-distance relationship is not easy. During the pandemic, there’s even more pressure and stress added to an already difficult situation. But ask your partner for help in managing your anxiety. They can remind you of these tips and strategies when you’re having an attack.
And take advantage of our community in the meantime! Tatiana shared that she also deals with anxiety during the pandemic. Read her story to find out how she gets through this time. Learn from other contributors’ advice and get the support you need.