Work smarter, not harder.
Feeling overly busy, and constantly stressed, is an everyday experience for so many of us. A recent New York Times article, Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family, draws attention to the very real social problem of higher stress for families today with both parents working. Couples feel starved for time with children, spouse, and leisure. As a result, quality of life can suffer.
Although the Times article does a good job of identifying the problem, it does not address solutions outside of recommended large-scale social policy changes such as paid family leave and after-school childcare. However, couples trapped in the stress crunch need effective solutions to handle it right now, since it’s only growing worse. This article offers practical suggestions for how couples can manage stress better, while also improving the quality of their marriage. Both are closely related.
Try out these three powerful strategies for overcoming stress and improving the quality of your marriage:
1. Stop overextending yourself.
We’re all trying to do too much and are spread out to the max. Both parents working full time creates an extremely difficult life style. Even when one parent stays at home it’s still exceedingly stressful since taking care of kids and household full-time is an underrated job giving little recognition or reward.
The stress list goes on and on — it’s almost endless! What's the solution?
Put the brakes on it. Recognize that you're setting yourself up for failure when you're chronically overextended. Realize and accept that you just can't do it all. The first thing to do is prioritize. What’s most important? Make better quality of life at the top of the list together with spending time with family. Cut out any activities not absolutely critical; use your time wisely. Better to delay cleaning the house—don’t be a perfectionist—do it faster and less perfect for more time with loved ones.
Outsource as many household responsibilities possible. This is an option so many fail to use, yet so hugely important. Challenge the stress machine—make a conscious decision to protect quality of life and family time. Don’t buy the bigger house, new car, or spend money on things not absolutely necessary. Instead, pay for conveniences to make your life easier: lawn care, gardening, snow removal, laundry, meal preparation, etc.
2. Plan breaks into your day.
Use the science of proven stress management practices. Rushing through the day, always feeling tense, and never taking a moment to breathe eventually results in a continuous state of anxiety. Instead, try these beginner stress control practices:
- Take breaks periodically during the day. Stop what you're doing; take a short breather, if even just for a few minutes.
- Don’t stay sitting all day. Stand up at your desk at work and stretch, walk to the water cooler, or go outside for a short walk. Move the body — science now shows a variety of medical problems stem from sitting.
- Follow principles of effective personal organization and time management.
- Make sure you do things that give pleasure and enjoyment during your busy week to rejuvenate you.
Take time at the end of each workday to just decompress. For instance, after coming home from work take 5-to-10 minutes to change into comfortable clothes and just be alone for a few minutes. Or it might be later going for a walk, taking a warm shower/bath, etc.
The best way to decompress may vary greatly between different people. If it's not possible to take that time early in the evening, then do so later. Be creative to make it happen. Spouses can take over for each other with the kids giving one another equal opportunity to take time.
3. Depend on your partner more.
Because both external stress and internal marital stress are so interconnected, learning how to build and support a really loving, lasting relationship is imperative. Persistent conflict, underlying tension, and problems in marriage can escalate stress and vice versa. Both feed off of one another.
So the question is, how do you live with someone every day over so many years and keep the flame alive, especially with such a harried pace of life? You must commit to working together to stop negative patterns in your relationship and love selflessly, ultimately reducing conflict within your marriage. Using a nonaggressive tone of voice when talking through your issues and expressing empathy will help you sort calmly through your vulnerable feelings and intimate issues.
Lastly, apologize without giving excuses, and make a commitment to try your best to not engage in that behavior anymore.
Using these steps to reduce stress and communicate more effectively will help you maintain a great marriage and possibly save your struggling relationship.
For more in-depth information about this approach and self-help exercises see Relationship Co-Coaching: A New Approach To Deeper Love, Less Conflict.