Unfortunately, we Americans have become “accomplished” at creating stressful lives for ourselves. A recent nationwide stress survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Medicine asked people how stressed they've been lately and what they do when they're stressed out. Researchers for this study found that around half of the respondents had experienced a very recent “major stressful event” in their lives. These events included: health crisis, personal financial upheaval, death of a loved one, relationship problems and more. People reported that, as a result of strain and pressure, they were more likely to: sleep and eat less (or more) than usual, abandon their exercise routine, play video games more than usual and otherwise stop doing the things that allow them to thrive.
Not only does this cultural trend wreak havoc on our bodies (as in high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders and more), it can also wreck a relationship. Even without the relationship-specific challenges that can develop around trust and communication, when one or both people are stressed out on a regular basis, the negative spill-over can be devastating.
When you're stressed, you're more likely to....
Be distracted or disengaged when your partner speaks.
Be too exhausted (mentally, emotionally and physically) for sex or other intimacy.
Be more interested in “vegging” out on the computer or tv than in spending quality time together.
Be quicker to get angry or otherwise blow things out of proportion.
Be more reactionary and less able to really listen and then consciously respond.
In other words...
When stress becomes your way of life, you aren't able to be as kind, compassionate, present and loving as you might like to be. Your partner may feel rejected, unimportant and pissed off because you can't seem to show up in your relationship in a beneficial way. All of this can have life-altering effects, maybe even the end of your love relationship or marriage.
These 5 stress-busters are not only wonderful for your personal well-being, they're great for your relationship too!
1. Stop asking, “What if?”
...In the way you usually do. There's absolutely nothing wrong with conjuring up a different outcome for your future (or even something about your past), it's just that most of us do it in a way that ramps up our stress-levels. Worries about failure, calamity and crisis become fixations for us.
“What if my proposal is an embarrassment?” “What if we can't pay the credit card bill this month?” “What if the test results say I'm really sick or even dying?”
Pay closer attention to the “What if's” that roam around in your head. Don't create more tension by imagining the worst case scenario.
2. Start asking, “What's possible?”
Instead of “What if's” that steal your peace of mind, meet a challenge or perceived problem with the question, “What's possible?”
Whether you're facing a stumbling block at work, with your bank account, with your health or in your relationship, try focusing on the possibilities you want or could be okay with. We aren't talking about unbelievable or unrealistic scenarios. Your answer to the question, “What's possible?” should be a list of options you can actually choose from. Some you won't want or aren't a good fit for your situation, but other options are going to be new (and valid) ideas that you didn't consider before.
This two-word question can be your opening to the perfect solution and a reduction of stress too.
3. Give up the “not enoughs.”
A sense of scarce resources (whether it's money, energy, love and acceptance or anything else) is a huge stressor for many of us. Isn't it time to give up all of those “not enough” beliefs you carry around with you every day? Again, this isn't about living in la la land or denying your situation; it's all about how you're approaching whatever is going on.
4. Look for the positive plenty.
When you remind yourself of what you do have enough of and what you do have an abundance of, this is an important stress-busting shift.
When you believe you are all alone, that nobody cares or that you just can't win, that's your cue to pause, take a deep breath and try a fresh approach. Think about what's going well in your life and all that you have that you do appreciate and that is pleasing to you. This doesn't cancel out the hardships, but it widens your view and helps you see that there's more than just the stress or the problem.
5. Include self-supports.
What people tend to do when they're stressed out, as study results confirm, is to stop taking good care of themselves. When you stop eating nourishing foods and don't get enough sleep, your body has to work even harder to make it through. And, when you don't make time for exercise, you deprive yourself of a natural stress-reducer.
No matter how over-scheduled, busy or weighed down you feel, make sure to provide yourself with supports that boost you and sustain you. Everybody is different so tune in to what feels truly supportive and promotes stress-release and make sure you're doing those things-- not just once, but every day.
Your relationship will thrive as you move through stress in healthier ways. For more suggestions you can put into action today to start creating a happier relationship, check out our free Passionate Spark~Lasting Love ebook.