Most of us will not have experienced until now, how dramatically life can change in such a short space of time. Life has changed faster and more profoundly than our ability to process it.
It’s a shock.
We have been launched into an unknown journey in unfamiliar territory: loss of routine and purposeful activity; financial insecurity; isolation and loneliness; anxiety about health; worry about the well-being of friends and family members, and families coping with children at home for an extended time — all these things press in.
Sadly, some have suffered the loss of family or friends, and have the added challenge of dealing with grief in complicated circumstances. Those working on the front line are utterly exhausted.
There is no doubt that we are all facing stress in one way or another, but how we process and deal with stress differs from person to person. We each find different kinds of things more stressful, or less stressful. The amount of stress we are able to tolerate is changeable, depending on various factors.
The way we respond to stress is not about being right or wrong. It’s more about whether our response is helpful or unhelpful.
We each have different habitual ways of dealing with stress: some people withdraw; some try to increase the amount of control they have; others try to minimise the situation or avoid facing the reality of it. Some might focus on the worst possible scenario. The one thing that is common to all, is that when we feel under threat, we have a physical fight and flight response, part of which is that our thinking becomes narrowly focussed and inflexible. It is difficult to think openly and clearly and this can affect the way we relate and communicate.
When our capacity for tolerance is already stretched, we can become snappy, judgmental and critical, argumentative, or unresponsive. This of course, is ideal ground for unhelpful communication and misunderstanding, which leads to emotional distance. In this time of social and physical distancing, the last thing we need is emotional distancing as well!
The way we respond to stress is not about being right or wrong. It’s more about whether our response is helpful or unhelpful. As a couple, we can find ways to respond that pull us together, not drive us apart. Here are some pointers that you may find helpful.
- Try to become aware of your own stress, and how you are responding to it. There is no need to be harsh or judgmental towards yourself, just be aware. There is no shame in feeling stressed, it is part of life.
- Keep a check on how you’re communicating. Keep communication channels open, clear, calm and kind.
- Listen as much as you talk, giving the other freedom to be different to you.
- Be willing to talk about things you each find stressful so you can find away through together.
- Remember to encourage and appreciate one another.
REFLECT & CONNECT
- What am I finding stressful right now?
- How is stress affecting me — in my body – in my thinking — in my emotions?
- How do I see stress affecting my partner right now?
To talk about as a couple
- What aspects of our communication push us apart, draw us together?
- What would help to draw us closer together?
- What steps will we take towards that?
Do you know what you are feeling? How easy or difficult do you find it to talk about your emotions? The Toucan Communication Module helps you identify your own emotions and talk about them as a couple to grow in understanding and intimacy. The module also looks at communication habits, good and bad, and how we can grow closer through our communication.