By Amy Berrafato, LMFT, CST
You would think that the key to a happy, successful, strong long-term relationship would be: Love? Trust? Honesty? Respect? Not exactly. (I mean, yes, and…) There is research that shows the essence of a healthy relationship boils down to a foundation of healthy stress management skills. Perhaps not quite what you’d expect, nor as glamorous, but I happen to agree.
Life is a series of stressors, no matter what season you’re in. You’re juggling family, work, parenting, self-care, and relationship demands on a daily basis. If you don’t have healthy coping strategies and outlets, your stress will likely impact many different areas of your life, especially within sex and relationships. How you interact with others, how well you sleep, how you take care of yourself, and how your attitude shapes the world around you can certainly play a major role in your overall well being. Why not pay special attention?!
A few thoughts to consider as you take stock in your stress management skills:
Looks: How do you know if you’re stressed? Take a look at how your stress presents itself. Are you more irritable than usual? Have trouble sleeping? Do you become quiet or withdrawn? Does your stomach act up? Get to know your signs well so you can spot them quickly.
Outlets: How do you relieve stress? What are your best outlets? Exercise, meditation, walks, reading, writing, music, talking to a friend, playing a sport, to name a few. Stress loops in a cyclical manner internally, so if you don’t expend that stressful energy and put it somewhere, it will continue to cycle in your body until the next stressor comes along. Get it out!
Goals: What would you like to improve? Define a step in the right direction. Many people don’t like to talk about their stress because it “brings it to the surface,” but I find that naming it can actually diffuse some of the tension. Acknowledge that it’s there, or tell your partner a bit about what’s going on. You might feel more supported in doing so. You do not have to carry your stress alone!
I realize this information may seem like common sense, but stress and mental health are incredibly intertwined, and this shows up every day in session. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and check in about your stress. You and your relationships depend on it!