Stress caused by issues at work, worries about money, concerns about family members or health problems, can have a big impact on relationships. It can create a disconnection between a couple leading to communication issues; all at a time when a partner needs more support, not less, from their other half.
All of this can be prevented if you are aware of the subtle changes when your partner is stressed. Being vigilant about each other’s mental health as well as physical health is important, but often it can be difficult to address because symptoms of stress are misdiagnosed, or hidden by the person suffering.
Being proactive about supporting your partner when they get stressed can bring you closer to each other and develop a new level of intimacy.
What help can you provide to support your partner if they are suffering from stress?
If you’re in a heterosexual relationship it is important to understand that your partner’s response to stress will be different to yours. Women and men have distinct reactions when they are stressed.
When a person is stressed the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which bind together. This causes raised blood pressure and higher levels of blood sugar. Then there is a release of oxytocin from the brain opposing the release of adrenalin and cortisol by relaxing the persons’ body.
When men get stressed less oxytocin is released than in women and therefore they react to adrenaline and cortisol more strongly. This results in a ‘flight or fight response’ that may cause them to be angry, or to repress their feelings and become withdrawn. Typically men care more about competing and their performance in the tasks they are involved in. They like being appreciated, are open to new ideas, like to push themselves to the limit and will accept assistance if they need to.
Women on the other hand, because of higher oxytocin levels, handle stress by nurturing their loved ones; this creates a desire to protect their family, particularly young children. Women’s feelings of competency in relationships are closely linked to their self-esteem and individuality. They like to feel wanted, cared for and like their partner to appreciate them and voice these expressions openly so that they feel good.
So how do you deal with stress that your partner is experiencing?
Every day as a part of daily life we deal with stress. When you are in a relationship, even if both you and your partner are connecting effectively, there will be some situations when one or the other is continuing to work but has no energy left. The love and support are all you both need to keep going. Keep your positive frame of mind even if you find it difficult and produce resources mentally and emotionally to assist your partner.
This will generate a healthy foundation and solid base for your relationship and build on the good feeling and connection between both of you. Create stress reducing habits and set up a system that both of you have to check in if there is anything you need support with. Do an activity together like a new gym class or Pilates to renew your relationship.
As the person closest to them, you’re also the person who might suggest that they need help from an outside source. This could be something you do together, such as taking a course in meditation and deep breathing, or you might want your partner to see a therapist to get one-on-one support.
It can be difficult to broach the subject of ‘needing help’, but it’s a conversation that you must have if you feel your partner is not able to manage their stress. Research suitable options that your partner is most likely to be receptive to, like cognitive behaviour therapy, and explain why you think they should seek help. Remember to be supportive, loving and share your concerns for their health. Sometimes a ‘do it for me’ approach will allow those people who are trying to hide stress or keep a stiff upper lip, open up and accept help.
Finally, remember to get support for yourself too. It can be very hard living with someone who is suffering from stress or depression, especially when you need to be the ‘strong one’. It may help to talk to trusted friends or just to get some time to yourself by going to the gym or other activities. It may also help to talk to a therapist who can help you look after your mental health, and support your partner at the same time.
If you would like to discuss any of the above with me please get in touch. Contact me on +44 (0)796 715 1790 or email [email protected]
Andrea Smith is a Qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Cognitive Behaviour Therapist with a Masters in Psychology. As the founder of Hypnotherapy in Surrey, she is dedicated to helping clients change unwanted behaviour patterns using Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapy.