Stress Management

Stress is a common experience for many in our modern, fast- paced world. The biggest contributors to stress are financial worry, health concerns, relationship problems, adjusting to changes, work demands and just having too much to do and not enough time. Changes in technology have meant that we are now available to friends, family and our workplace 24/7. Our senses can get overloaded with stimulation in our waking hours, making it harder and harder to switch off and de-stress. Signs of stress include irritability, agitation, inability to relax, muscle tension often around the neck area, nausea and having lots of nervous energy. The effects of chronic stress can include stomach ulcers, irritable bowl, reduced immunity, skin irritations, high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches and chronic pain.

If you are constantly feeling stressed it is important to evaluate your life choices. Is your current lifestyle sustainable? Are there any changes that can be made to reduce the number of stressors you are exposed to? Below are some tips for managing stress. If you have tried all or most of these tips and you still find yourself frequently getting wound up or suffering from stress-induced health issues, then get help. Speaking to a psychologist can assist in identifying unhelpful thinking patterns that may be contributing to your stress, exploring changes that can made and develop more effective strategies for managing stress.

5 Stress Management Tips

  1. Physical activity – Get out and walk the dog, take up a sport, join a gym, go dancing or take a yoga class. Get out of your mind and into your body. You don’t have time you say? Well make some time as the improvements to your health, well-being, productivity and focus will be great. Even as little as 10-15 minutes per day will help.
  2. Mindfulness – Focus on the present moment. Lots of stress comes from worry about predicted disasters in the future, most of which never eventuate. Bring your attention to what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel in the her and now. Slow down. The Smiling Mind App is a great tool for formal mindfulness practice as the exercises are lovely and short. Perfect for busy people.
  3. Breathe – Lots of people forget to breathe properly when they are stressed. If you are feeling overwhelmed stop, take 5 slow deep breathes down into your belly. This will send a calming signal to your mind and body which will help you feel more grounded and in control.
  4. Set realistic goals – Having too many items on your mental to do list can result in a constant feeling of failure and stress. Develop an overall To Do list and then create a daily To List with a realistic number of tasks that can be achieved. Cross tasks off when they are completed. Re-assess your daily list if you find you are frequently not getting through it. Do you have too many items or are you getting distracted by unimportant tasks not on your list? Any.do is a great app or web based program for creating and managing lists.
  5. Switch off your device – Yes it can be done! Turn off the phone/tablet/TV/computer and take a break. Have a cup of tea, read a book, get out in the garden or go to a park, create something, talk to someone, cuddle a pet, play with your children.

Take time out to relax.

Building Healthy Initimate Relationships

The financial and emotional costs of relationship breakdown, particularly for couples with children are high. Working on saving your relationship can be a worthwhile investment in your future mental and financial health. So, what are some of the components of a relationship in distress and how can you build a healthy relationship?

Effective and ongoing communication

Being able to listen and understand your partner’s point of view, even if you disagree, and keeping communication channels open during times of conflict is the cornerstone of a successful relationship. Avoidance of issues is can lead to disconnection and further withdrawal. Try turning towards your partner and expressing your concerns calmly and without criticism or contempt. According to relationship researcher John Gottman, contempt is the single biggest predictor of divorce. Eliminating name calling, sarcasm or ridicule is essential to building a healthy lasting relationship. Contempt is most likely to emerge in times of anger so try taking some time out to cool down before addressing a problem with your partner. If your anger is out of control then getting help to learn some anger management strategies may be advisable.

Criticism is a common communication style in relationships in distress and leaves the criticised person feeling rejected, hurt and angry. Rather than criticising your partner for something they have done, try and express your complaint by identifying how your partner’s behaviour has impacted on you. For example, instead of “Why didn’t you clean up your dishes this morning? You are so lazy”; try “I can see you didn’t clean up the dishes this morning. I feel really stressed when I come home and see the kitchen in a mess.” Defensiveness is a common response to criticism and often results in blaming others, especially our partner, for our behaviour. Try accepting responsibility and apologising for your mistakes.

Respect

Take the time to show interest in your partner’s beliefs, values, interests and dreams. Do not assume that these are the same as when you met, as people change. Ask about your partner’s day and check in to see if anything is bothering them. Focus on the things you like about your partner rather than highlighting the things that annoy you.

Acceptance

Often we are attracted to a partner whose personality is different from our own. Over time many couples become less tolerant of those differences, resulting in criticism and attempts to change their partner. Reflect on the things that attracted you to your partner and focus on how your partner’s differences complement you and provide balance in your relationship. Accept your partner for who he or she is and work on making your relationship a sanctuary of acceptance of one another.

Commitment

Couples that stay to together long term have a commitment to the relationship and making it work. Life presents us with many challenges over time. Births, deaths, illness, financial stress and change can all put strain on a relationship. Make a commitment to behave in a loving way even when you don’t feel like it and be prepared to hang in there through difficult times as you never know what is around the corner. Turning toward your partner rather than pulling away during times of stress can build a solid, supportive relationship. Commit to making time to sustain your relationship. Turn off the TV, phone and other devices and have some time alone together. Eat a meal, go for a walk, have a coffee or take up a hobby together.

If you are struggling in your relationship seeing a psychologist or therapist who has expertise in relationship counselling can help you get your relationship back on track.

Recommended Reading

Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship By John M Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman and Joan Declaire

 

Reference

Bridging the Couple Chasm – Gottman Couples Therapy: A Research Based Approach by John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman