Why Chronic Stress Complicates Relationships And How To Protect Yourself

Expert opinion: negative emotions are contagious and dangerous for love

For a long time, chronic stress, accompanied by internal burnout, was considered a problem for workaholics or managers. Nowadays this physically and mentally debilitating tandem is available to almost everyone and you do not have to spend 40 hours a week in the office to feel its grim consequences. The pandemic, coupled with global uncertainty, keeps us on our toes, regularly adding to everyday life’s frustrations and turmoil. And sadly, constant stress – whether from work or other causes – not only affects our health and moods, but also our relationships with the people we love.

How stress damages relationships

“An excessive sense of responsibility and a tendency to perfectionism is the Achilles heel of modern people. Constantly driven by the word ‘should’, we become easy victims for emotional burnout caused by chronic fatigue and individual susceptibility”, explains psychologist and hypnotherapist Olga Golosova. – When hyper responsibility drives us to the brink, we start criticising ourselves for being exhausted, and this is not only absurd but also cruel. In addition, dedication takes away the ability to separate the social from the personal, and we drag work stress home, severely straining relationships with loved ones.“

Anyone with experience of family/cohabitational life knows that a serious relationship requires a lot of energy, even if you are happy to sacrifice yourself daily to your great love. Once work begins to take the lion’s share of the attention, the relationship loses its former care. The next stage, you devote even less time to your partner, making excuses for busyness and fatigue. And then predictably: mental instability combined with a lack of energy leads to irritation and the inevitable conflicts.

The hidden threat: stress is contagious!

“Like many things, the perception of stress depends on human nature: compulsive and hyper-responsive characters are full of it, while ‘thick-skinned’ and relaxed phlegmatics are easier to cope with,” says a psychologist. – But most annoyingly, research confirms that stress can spread to others. Put simply, if you don’t take care of your nerves, the stress will spill over to those who live with you.

A few years ago, researchers from Griffith University in Australia proved the phenomenon of stress transmission: people are sensitive to their loved ones’ moods and pick up on his/her emotional state – just like the virus that’s ruining everyone’s life for the second year in a row. This is how empathy works, when we accept our neighbour’s pain, wanting to support him or her. It’s the same with irritation – a stressed-out spouse at work comes home all stressed out and instead of leaving the problems at the doorstep, starts picking at little things with a sour look. The mood shifts to the bewildered spouse – and after about half an hour, the house is in a full-fledged scandal.

Doesn’t sound fun, does it? Given the circumstances – at work and in the world in general – it’s worth taking the extra precaution of not infecting those you care about with stress. Assuming you can’t change the pace of the work situation, there’s at least a chance to keep your relationships positive and improve them steadily by following the advice of an expert.

How to protect your feelings from stress

  1. Share problems, don’t shut yourself away. At first, the partner is silent, sincerely wanting to protect the loved one from the problems he or she is facing. Then it becomes a habit, but in the meantime, there is a huge ball of unresolved emotions that could explode at any moment and most likely leave the person you love in the crossfire. It is not worth bringing it to an unpleasant breakthrough, in order to avoid which the psychologist recommends staying in contact with your partner “for better or for worse”. No one, not even your significant other, is capable of reading your thoughts. Talking about all the problems and disappointments in your life creates a win-win situation: you feel relieved and your partner constantly empathises with what you are going through, fully understanding the situation.
  1. Try to make time for each other when you are not thinking about work. You spend a lot of energy, emotion and energy at work – it’s only fair that your partner gets as much attention as you do. If it’s too boring, invent a schedule, just do not reduce the relationship to the joint payment of bills: Monday – a walk in the park, Wednesday – a movie on the couch, Saturday – party at the Petrovs. Sound unromantic? It’s better than being stuck in a vicious cycle of overtime. The important thing here is not to overdo it – in times of intense exhaustion you’re unlikely to want to dress up as a clown for the Petrovs and their guests. Focus on activities that require little energy and do something nice/good/pleasant for each other on a regular basis – at least in words.
  1. Be a team. Organisational skills and team building are good in any relationship. Of course if one in a couple is worse Part of the ‘deal’ should be that one of them may be stressed and the other intervenes in that case and takes on extra family responsibilities. But this only works if it is clear to both parties that the ‘deal’ is mutual, these benefits reinforce the fundamental stability of any partnership