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  • Managing Relationship Stress

    1 posts, 1 voices, 385 views, started Mar 26, 2009

    Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2009 by Denise Richardson

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      A Tool that Works when Relationship Tips Fail  

       Relationship stress triggers knee-jerk fight or flight responses that make us feel like running or fighting –but not much of anything else. When this happens, and it commonly does, our emotions and the emotions of others can seem threatening and overwhelming. Some of us to get angry and do or say things we regret. Others shut down, withdraw, and refuse to participate. Either way, our inability to listen and speak intelligently in the face of relationship stress just makes things worse.

      By learning emotional intelligence skills, you can learn how to stay calm and focused in the moment, and to communicate clearly and powerfully even in tense situations.
      In This Article:
      These people want tips for managing relationship stress
      How we react and respond to stress
      The skill you most need to manage relationship stress
      Sensory awareness exercise: learn what works best for you
      Tips for integrating this skill into your life
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      These people want tips for managing relationship stress
      Our stress responses can paralyze us emotionally and undermine even the strongest love or work relationship. These people are looking for tips to help with stress challenges in their relationships.

      Irene's new boss is giving her a hard time. She's not sleeping well, so she is cranky and in no mood to listen to Alex talk about his day. No matter how hard she tries, she can't stay focused. Alex feels hurt and goes out for the evening by himself.

      Norm's roommateis creating a lot of stress in their relationship. He doesn't want to break his date with Kristy. While Norm usually enjoys Kristy's playful kidding, tonight it infuriates him and he explodes.

      Corina and her best friend Sally had such a heated argument that she heads to the mall to cool off. There, she loses track of time and doesn't show up for her dinner date with Sam.

      Terri is so overwrought by tensions with her mother that she just goes through the motions at work, and accomplishes nothing—a fact that infuriates her boss.  

      Stephanie is so jumpy and agitated after fighting with her husband that coworkers don't want to be near her. She thinks her colleagues dislike her, but they are just trying to avoid the waves of negative energy that radiate from her cubicle.

      As shown in the examples above, stress cripples your ability to accurately see and hear your partner; be self-aware and in touch with your own deep-rooted needs; and to communicate your needs clearly.

      These people want tips to help them respond better. But, in a stressful relationship your mind can't think clearly enough to remember the tips and use the appropriate tip to orchestrate your response.

      To understand how Emotional Intelligence gives you skills you need for managing relationship stress lets explore what happens in a stressful situation.  

      How we react and respond to stress
      Thinking won't work when stress hits our nervous system
      Out of control stress triggers knee jerk fight or flight responses that make us feel like running or fighting –but not much of anything else. When this happens, and it commonly does, our emotions and the emotions of others can seem threatening and overwhelming. Stress shows itself differently in different people:  

      The most common ways of responding to stress:
      Angry or agitated - a heated angry, in-your-face response where the person is agitated, and can't sit still...
      Shutdown, depressed or spaced-out – the person exhibits little energy or emotion.
      Frozen or traumatized – the person is tense and still, can't get going and can't accomplish anything. Some people have had frightening overwhelming experiences that wire their nervous systems to "freeze" when challenged by stress. Their stress responses are especially complex and contradictory. They may look paralyzed but are racing within.
      The skill you need most to manage relationship stress
      We need to remain calm and focused under stress
      How can you stay calm and alert during stress? Many of us spend so much time in a stressed state, we have forgotten what it feels like to be fully relaxed and alert. You can see that "just right" inner balance in the smile of a happy baby—a face so full of joy it reminds adults of the balanced emotional state that most of us have misplaced. In adulthood, being balanced means maintaining a calm state of energy, alertness, and focus. Calmness is more than just feeling relaxed; being alert is an equally important aspect of finding the balance needed to withstand stress.  

      Stress busting: functioning well in the heat of the moment
      Learning your personal stress-busting technique gives you a skill to help you reduce your stress level by rapidly bringing you back into a state of equilibrium. No time here for a long, soothing bath or meditation. A stress-buster detective is one who seeks out the right kind of sensory input to soothe, comfort and invigorate in the moment!  

      Each person responds differently to sensory input. For example, certain kinds of music may relax one person but irritate another. The smell of incense can lift one person's distress, but another may benefit most from candle light.

      Knowing the right kind of sensory input is essential to:

      Speed up, if you are a person who is spaced out or distressed
      Slow down, if you are a person who is angry or agitated
      Help get unstuck, if you are a person who is frozen with anxiety
      Being a "stress-buster detective" will help you take actions that help calm and focus you at home and at work. You can learn to create sensory-rich environments everywhere, in your car, in your office – wherever you spend time.

      You may already be familiar with stress reduction techniques like yoga or meditation, but in relationships, you need to defuse stress in the moment. You need personal stress reduction techniques that:  

      Both relax and energize you— helps you feel both calm and alert
      Have immediate impact bring quick, positive responses
      Are enjoyable — you feel good while using the technique
      Are dependable — consistently work for you
      Are available— are at hand or easily accessible
      The following exercise helps you be a "Stress buster detective" and find what works best for you  

      Sensory awareness exercise: learn what works best for you
      To Prepare
      Prepare for the sensory awareness exercise, by releasing any tension you may be holding in your body. You do this by tensing, tightening or squeezing parts of your body for 5 seconds and then release those muscles. As you release, surrender any tension or discomfort in that part of your body.

      Begin by squeezing your toes and feet for 5 seconds ...and let go...
      Next focus on your calves and thighs squeezing them for 5 seconds ...and release. Take a moment to experience the sensations in the skin, muscles and bones of your legs.
      Now focus on your pelvis and lower back ...squeezing these parts for five seconds... and let go.
      Now direct your attention to the muscles in your stomach and middle back, tightening and holding them for five seconds ... and release.
      Now squeeze and hold your chest and upper back ... and release. Take a moment to focus on the sensations in the upper part of your body.
      Now tighten your neck and shoulders for five more seconds ... and release. Do you feel more relaxed in your neck and shoulders?
      Finally, squeeze and hold the many muscles in your face including those around your jaw ,eyes, mouth and nose for five seconds ....and let go allowing all of these muscles to go slack.
      Take a moment to experience the sensations throughout your body.  

      Imaginary visualization
      Clear your mind of all unrelated thoughts, soften your eyes and take several slow deep breaths.

      Imagine a forest of trees, a breathtaking arrangement of flowers, or a spectacular beautiful garden.
      See, feel and experience a water scene that is both cool and invigorating.
      Visualize and experience a person or animal you love.
      Take a moment to draw in this experience. Note images that instantly make you feel relaxed  

      Sensation of Sounds
      Recall some of the sounds of nature: possibly bird calls, flowing water, or the sound of the wind rustling leaves.
      Recall some melodies, musical instruments or voices that you enjoy.
      Take a moment to draw in the sensation of one of these experiences. Do any of these both sooth and invigorate you?  

      Sensation of Scents and Smells  

      Imaginebreathing in thescent of lemons, ripe strawberries,lavender or mint.
      Imaginesmelling warm chocolate, gardenia, musk or your favorite perfume.
      Allow one of the delightful sensations to linger in your nostrils.  

      Sensation of Touch
      Recall the feel of a baby's skin or the softness of a puppy or kitten.
      Imagine the sensation of a soothing touch on your arm or leg.
      Recall having your face or hair stroked.
      Take a moment to revel in these sensual delights noting any sensations that both relax and invigorate you.  

      Movement Sensations
      Now take a moment to stretch. Pay attention to your body sensations while trying the following:

      Move your feet like you are running in place.
      Tap your head lightly with your fingertips or roll your head in circles.
      Move your body pretending you are dancing in place to imaginary music.
      When you're done, take a deep breath, fully exhale and take in the experience. What sensations do you feel?

      Reflecting on the exercise
      Did you experience colors, sights, scents or movements that are not part of your memory bank but might be worth exploring—if so, practice until you can recall these sensation whenever you choose.  

      Tips for integrating this skill into your life
      Learning the Emotional Intelligence skill, the elastic, is a little like learning to drive or to play golf. You don't master the skill in one lesson—you have to practice until it becomes second nature

      Pleasurable images can include whole scenes of sensual delights—playing with a beloved pet or baby, thrilling to a game of tennis or basketball – a day at the seashore swimming in clear blue water.

      Remember, images must be sensory rich for the visualization process to successfully calm, sooth and energize. Sensory experience is grounding and will enable you to remain in control in difficult situations.

      Continue to explore sensory possibilities, both real and imaginary, until you're confident in having some kind of sensory stimulation at your finger tips to use whenever you need to be more relaxed and alert.  

      For example:  

      Irene's new boss continues to create stress at the office, but now when she comes home, Irene goes immediately into her peaceful beautiful garden and literally "smells the roses"... By the time her husband, Alex, gets home, she is much calmer and able to enjoy her conversation with Alex about his work.

      Norm has learned take a pleasant memory break during his stressful relationship with his roommate.  An avid golfer, Norm takes a moment to recall the great shots he makes on the course and gets a confidence boost that helps him handle the challenges of his roommate and look forward to kidding around with his playful girlfriend Kristy'.

      Corina has learned that when she gets angry, she needs to calm down before she does something she might regret. Her solution has been to think about how much fun she has playing with her dog Skip who loves to lick her face and neck.  

      Terri has found that she is stressed out she can become much more calm and focused if she spends a few minutes looking at the family photos on her desk and recalling great family vacations. She has become much more productive and her boss just gave her a raise.

      Stephanie has learned that she can avoid tension by starting her day listening to uplifting music, rather than the news, on the way to work. She has also begun to keep a bowl of fresh flowers and a scented candle on her desk –which helps her preserve her good mood. Her colleagues now enjoy hanging around her cubicle.  



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