Stress can originate from both external sources as well as internally in the manner in which we process and make sense of our lives.
Examples of things that cause stress in our lives are career difficulties and career unhappiness, difficult schedules as well as ties to perfectionism and low self-esteem.
Despite being a normal part of our lives, stress can become problematic when it begins to adversely impact our emotional and physical well-being and we are unable to manage it on our own.
Stress doesn’t simply impact us on an emotional level. If left unaddressed it can also manifest in physical health ailments such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, not to mention impact our jobs and families.
Stress impacts our entire system in an alarming manner and when it becomes chronic it doesn’t allow us to turn off our fight or flight response.
There are a few telltale signs that can tip you off to whether you are experiencing too much stress including, lack of patience and motivation, increased annoyance or aggravation, being easily moved to tears, and panic or anxiety attacks.
A good place to start to decrease emotional stress is by doing the things you enjoy such as devoting time to maintaining important social connections, getting some exercise, and being mindful of not taking on too much. Do something you enjoy or maybe try journaling or meditating.
So many of us are stressed due to being caught in the “what if” mindset. Pondering on the many things that can go wrong in the various situations we all face on a daily basis. A tiny bit of this can be helpful in fueling the planning and implementing the process of any task; however, it can quickly become an unhealthy rabbit hole into which we become stuck.
Try changing “what if” to “what is” which helps to ground you in reality and the safety of the moment. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional support in techniques to aid in the management of your stress.
John Lennon said all you need is love, and love is all you need. He was wrong.
Within intimate relationships, it is also essential to focus on boundaries and borders that will only foster and heighten your relationship when in use. Marriage is a vulnerable commitment, which means there is potential for incredible pain that often happens when boundaries are crossed or not valued.
Things will get tricky at times within any relationship.
There is no threatening to leave when times get tough and no false notions within these difficult times regarding the belief of someone better for you being “out there.” This can be indicative of having one foot out the door and can easily lead to turning to someone outside of the relationship to complain about a partner rather than simply voicing your concerns to your partner.
It’s okay to ask your partner to change things that hurt you. It only becomes problematic when insisting they violate their values for you. There will sometimes be that difference regarding individual values and worldviews. Conflicts that arise from these differences can be maneuvered more efficiently by increasing knowledge and respect for these differences.
Consider engaging with your partner in ways you haven’t before.
Simply because you’ve been with your partner for many years is no indication that you know that person on a deep level. For instance, implement dates and new interactions to explore how well you do know your person.
Do you have daily, weekly, even monthly rituals for connection?
Focusing on these small moments can quickly increase security within your relationship.
Notice and respond to your partner’s bids for connection; foster it by focusing first on how you tend to react to your partner in these moments.
Perhaps you are turning away when you could just as quickly turn towards your spouse.
What Happens If Your Spouse Doesn’t Turn Towards You?
If your partner refuses to validate your feelings, maybe consider the amount of criticism or blame leveled at your partner within your feelings. Eliminating criticism both alleviates opposing defensiveness while at the same time boosting your partner’s ability to empathize with your feelings.
Most importantly, ignore the slogans within pop culture. Genuine relationships require work and intentionality not to harm your partner regarding his or her attachment needs.
It is part of the human experience to interact with criticism, either from those we come into contact with or internal criticism. TS Elliott once stated that criticism is as inevitable as breathing. Many of us have a strong inner critic; in fact, we typically have more than one.
If you have been criticized a lot in life, your inner critic might very well be echoing the comments you received in the past.
This criticism can quickly begin to rule your inner world and cause you to get swept up in a whirlwind of harsh messages and consequent hatred for that part of yourself as you become enmeshed with the bad feelings.
What might be different if you could see yourself through the lens of a compassionate friend? This person understands your history and has endless love for you. This type of lens, the lens of compassion, can decrease the inner critics’ voice.
We have all heard that old biblical expression of loving thy neighbor as thyself, and we forget the “thyself” part as if self-compassion is in opposition to loving thy neighbor.
The introduction of self-compassion can seem so woo-woo, trivial, and even selfish upon implementation. Recognizing that this response is part of the cycle that fuels your inner critic becomes very important. The journey towards self-compassion is a long and windy road for this express reason.
It isn’t simply achieved through a pat on the back or offering yourself a “good job, buddy” because we believe we need the inner critic’s messages to continue to achieve, strive, belong, which actually are an attempt to ensure we don’t activate pain.
The inner critic is attempting to maintain safety and security, which can be very difficult to see.
Understand that the introduction of compassion does not erase criticism; criticism isn’t the ticket; it’s the way we interact with it, use it, and allow it to reinforce beliefs about ourselves.
This is the pattern that we want to begin to address through the use of self-compassion; to create space and realize our agency in deciding how we structure our lives based upon these critiques. Remember, the critic part is not bad; it is not evil. It is simply utilizing distorted means of preventing you from experiencing internal pain.
Perhaps it only happened that one time. You promised yourself it would never happen again. It’s not a big deal. But just like Jim Morrison’s spy, you suddenly know everything your partner is doing, everywhere they go, everyone they know.
This knowledge can help to quiet that part of you wishing to dig through your partner’s emails, texts, or social media accounts . . . for a time.
However, you’ll most likely find this habit is tricky to let go of, made even more difficult if something suspicious is uncovered.
How does one relinquish a habit that allows for peace to wash over you for at least a brief moment? A moment you feel vindicated in your relationship unease, validated amidst the distress that has snuck into your home, into your marriage.
This lucidity vanishes quickly as the need to spy, the need to know, is constantly at war with the part of you that wants to move towards something better with your partner.
It can become difficult to see that this digging only increases the vicious cycle of secretive habits. And become even worse if you decide to keep the spying from your partner, ignoring the power-packed by the lie of omission.
Numerous things boost this need to find knowledge.
Many times, it is spurred by the infidelity of a past partner.
The part of you that remembers the effects of this betrayal attempting to help you, to ensure you aren’t subjected to such pain a second time or that, at the very least, you’re prepared.
It might be stemming from a lack of trust, only creating more issues in the long run as this behavior is utilized to feed the mistrust.
The need to check your partner’s phone may have grown out of a lack of communication resulting from a distance in the relationship. This distance can increase suspicion. Who are they connecting with, if not you? Suddenly, you’ve become the spy in the relationship, which only increases the chasm between you and your partner.
It can be tough to turn that focus back on oneself.
If you find that you can’t stop checking, it can help to question what might fuel this behavior.
Ask yourself what is prohibiting you from merely having a conversation with your partner in an open manner.
This conversation can heighten vulnerability, but it will inevitably increase trust rather than create a cycle of dishonesty, which will inevitably keep you and your partner stuck.
If you need support in this venture, I recommend reaching out to a mental health professional who can provide you additional insight and advocate for your relationship’s health and success.
Although made popular in the 1960’s, compliments of Neil Sedaka, these words that “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” continue to hold weight today.
If you’ve ever experienced a treacherous breakup, you know the subsequent pain can surge over you in many and varying forms.
Frequently, you and your partner may not even be on the same page, one of you perhaps hoping and believing there is something to salvage. It can be tough to let go of one another, made doubly complicated by our tendency, as humans, to seek connection.
Often, breaking up with someone we love can manifest as feelings of loss.
This loss may not even be related to losing your partner but can also pertain to the loss of future dreams and plans associated with the relationship.
Sometimes these feelings of loss can be hard to recognize.
Within this chaos, it can become so easy to turn on ourselves; to place blame; to wonder why we weren’t good enough to make it work.
We punish ourselves for loving, for being committed, for putting our best efforts into something that seemingly fizzled before our eyes.
Wading through these emotions can make one feel like they are at sea, the loss washing over us in tremendous, crashing waves.
Resultantly, it can become so trying to have faith in ourselves, our own inner strength, and the resources we innately possess to prevail and, to somehow, allow ourselves to again be vulnerable and to love.
The healing process becomes clouded, hidden under the murkiness created out of this mix of feelings, often complicated by a magnification of symptoms we have been managing to deal with our entire lives: anxiety, depression, negative self-image, or any number of things.
I implore you not to lose faith, to have empathy for yourself and the pain you are feeling. If you are struggling to find direction amidst the overwhelm, don’t be afraid to lean on your support system; family, friends, co-workers.
If it is further support you seek, an advocate to help you illuminate the path towards healing and growth, I suggest reaching out to a mental health professional.
You will find an individual who can offer you another perspective, which isn’t clouded with bias.
This individual will provide you agency in choosing the best path forward.