Managing Stress and Relationships


Relationships can be H A R D … am I right?


Maybe someone in your immediate family battles with addiction or mental illness, or perhaps someone very close to you tends to be narcissistic or just plain forgetful. These traits can put a wedge between relationships and cause a lot of stress, even in anticipating small interactions. This occurs even more so when your life is off-balance, and you’re more apt to react than respond intentionally to these challenging relationships. 


Much of what we call stress is, more specifically, anxiety. Anxiety more clearly articulates the emotion elicited when our bodies and minds respond to life in a stressed way. Understanding how anxiety is a serious health and relationship drain is essential to improving and strengthening every relationship in your life.


Think about it:


How do you act when you’re stressed out? I doubt that the words patient, helpful, compassionate, and creative come to mind.


When you say you’re feeling stressed out during a hectic day, you are really saying you have too many demands being placed on you. You’re feeling anxious about whether you can cope with it all. You don’t want to fail people at work or home. Sometimes, the frustration is in knowing that you have to choose whom to disappoint this time.


We enter all of our relationships with the positive memories and negative baggage of past relationships. Your awareness of how you deal with anxiety, insecurity, stress, and fear will either support or sabotage your most important relationships. Habitual ways of responding to people can surface without intentional monitoring of thoughts and behaviors.


One of my friends, Linda, sent me this email one morning:


“More pain… and yes, more gain. Matt and I had our usual breakdown argument at bedtime last night when the kids wouldn’t go to bed. Only this time, as painful as it was, I swallowed my pride and offered to talk about it. We talked for over an hour! Each time we do that lately, it is so painful at the time, but it takes us to a new level … a better level. I kept reminding myself about the goal that I set about strengthening our relationship and kept telling myself that it was worth the pain of admitting I needed to change, too. Whew!”


You and your spouse may have developed some negative communication habits or unrealistic expectations over time by not paying attention to what was happening or because you simply haven’t made a strong and fulfilling marriage a high priority.


an African American couple, sitting on the couch with arms crossed, looking away from each other as they are managing stress


Whatever relationships you want to make a high priority requir patience, energy, time, and flexibility— qualities rarely left over at the end of busy days. You need to make the time, create the energy, and honestly pursue the relationship to keep it as a priority.


Handling anxiety well improves every aspect of your life.  When you handle your responsibilities, other people’s expectations, and your schedule in a way that allows you to take care of yourself, you respond more positively to other people. By itself, that allows for fewer fights, disagreements, overreactions, and misunderstandings.


Think of the last time your house was chaotic, you were running late, and a child made a simple request. Did you respond with patience and grace or did you unnecessarily snap? By taking steps to manage your life well, you can greatly impact how your relationships affect you, your stress, and your life. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in a comment below.