We all encounter and experience stress differently. Some of you may feel overwhelmed by thoughts, emotions, and/or responsibilities. Others may have overwhelming feelings about social events, relationships, spiritual journey, or planning and organizing your house, travel, parties, etc. Medical residents must manage working long hours, late nights, challenging patients, and fear that they will make a mistake that may cost someone’s life. In short, we are all stressed in one way or another. Research studies have shown that external stressors can negatively impact your intimate relationships. In my professional experience, many couples’ chief complaints are that work, children, domestic responsibilities, and extended family members have led them to feel emotionally and physically disconnected from one another. It is imperative to identify your stressors and engage in healthy coping strategies that will help you feel more relaxed to provide positive feelings towards your partner.
There are various unhealthy and healthy ways to cope with stress. Examples of unhealthy coping strategies are drug and alcohol use, overeating, procrastination, sleeping too much or too little, social withdrawal, self-harm, and aggression.
The purpose of this blog is to outline and focus our attention to identifying healthy coping strategies to stress. Examples of healthy coping strategies are exercise, healthy eating, relaxation techniques, social support, problem-solving techniques, gratitude, increased autonomy, and improving sleep-hygiene.
The steps towards changing your current unhealthy habits to healthier habits are as follows:
Describe the problem you are dealing with
Identify the unhealthy coping strategies and their consequences
Write out healthy coping strategies that you can replace for each unhealthy coping strategy
What are your expected outcomes of using healthy coping strategies?
Identify the barriers of using healthy coping strategies
What are the benefits that you have seen once you’ve incorporated the healthy coping strategies?
Our brain gets used to patterns; therefore, it is very important to stay consistent with your efforts of replacing unhealthy coping strategies with healthier coping strategies. When you become frustrated or want to give up, remind yourself of the benefits that you will experience with your relationships by using healthy coping strategies. Take it one day at a time and only replace one habit at a time until your brain adjusts to the new pattern. You CAN do this!!! Trust yourself and in the beginning stages, it may help to have someone hold you accountable – a trusted friend, spouse, co-worker, etc.