Stress Affects Relationships
So how does stress affect your relationships? First, let’s look at the definition of stress. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. If you break apart the definition you can find the root of why stress affects your relationships.
Any time you are under extra strain, whether emotional or mental, or you are experiencing an increase in difficulties in your life circumstances, you will feel a commensurate increase in your stress level.
Love is, at it’s best, a form of sensory openness. Stress, on the other hand, is the opposite. It is a from of sensory overload and shutdown.
So how does this play out in your relationships? Well, lets’ first consider how stress plays out in our bodies.
How Does Stress Play Out in the Body
When our stress is on the rise, think of how your body reacts? What physiological changes does your body go through? Your heart rate increases, your breathing become shallow and more frequent. Your ability to think is diminished, your ability to process sensory stimuli like hot and cold is decreased. Your vision and your hearing, while they appear to have increased, they really are more like a tunnel. You become task oriented, like you’re putting out fires. You may become wired but tired, have lack of sleep, feel more irritable, and feel like the smallest thing that goes wrong is like the world ending.
You’ve moved from a love focus to a stress focus. From flow to resistance.
So ask yourself, can you feel stress and connection at the same time? What about passion?
How Does Stress Affect Relationships?
If you are starting your relationship with a healthy focus upon each other and stress begins to play a part, you’ll notice that your attention and focus will shift to the stressor. This shift in attention shows up first in your ability to communicate. When you are under a lot of stress your ability to hear and communicate well has decreased. Your focus has also shifted from positive communication to a more negative approach.
Impaired cognition happens early on also. Your ability to think logically decreases as you become distracted by the stressor. Making healthy judgement calls becomes increasingly more difficult because you are consumed with details and you are unable to make discerning choices.
Active or attentive listening skills diminish as your thinking is focused more and more on what needs to get done.
Thoughts become scrambled as you struggle to juggle everything going on at one time. Recalling important dates, events, appointments, errands, and such becomes increasingly difficult. Can you imaging being so stressed out that you forget an anniversary or a birthday?
When you are tired from all of this stress and your mood shifts from love to stress your irritability can increase dramatically causing misunderstandings, arguments, and even fights. If your stress level is left unattended this can lead to a general feeling of argumentativeness within the relationship. Common statements you might here could be, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” or “I’ll take care of it later when I can breathe.”
These reactions can leave a partner feeling hurt, offended, or even worse; rejected. Experiencing this enough times can cause a serious breach in the emotional intimacy that is the foundation of your relationship.
Loosing emotional connection as you drift farther and farther apart can be incredibly painful and debilitating to the relationship.
So how do you maintain a connection with your spouse?
Stress management is a great way to remain calm, cool, and collected in today’s world. It will benefit your relationship, as well, by keeping you connected with your partner.
Consider creating a stress management game plan for yourself. The key piece in this game plan is going to be self care. What self care activities help you feel more calm and relaxed? Consider working out, Reiki sessions, a yoga therapist, deep breathing, meditation, massage, detox baths, shooting hoops.
Encourage your partner to relax also. Help them to de-stress by allowing them alone time where necessary, encourage their self care routines, encourage them to spend time with friends.
Also create a game plan for the relationship to manage stress. Identify each other’s stress triggers, help each other identify negative thought patterns and communication patterns. Work together to create and maintain a soothing environment for each other, draw a bath for your partner, cook their favorite meal, help them feel cared for.
Most importantly, work together to create a game plan to reduce reactivity such as major arguments or “blow out” fights.
Reconnecting With Your Partner
- Take time to breathe and deeply reflect.
- Remember how sweet it is to touch and be touched.
- Take a deep breath and breathe in the memories that emit from their scent.
- Offer gratitude to each other.
- Be vulnerable with each other.
- Prioritize commitment: spend time together and be each other’s defenders. Ask yourself What will your relationship look like in one month (and in six months) if you don’t prioritize time with your partner? What are the advantages of putting your partnership first, and what are the disadvantages?
JoyWork Suggestion: Spend time identifying your triggers and creating a game plan to deal with your stressors. Prioritize reconnecting with your partner on a daily basis.
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