Stress is Bad for Relationships

>> Monday

At the Ohio State University Medical Center researchers followed ninety couples for ten years. The couples they chose were free of risky behaviors or psychiatric problems, and the researchers specifically tried to choose only people who were happy with their relationships.

The researchers wanted to find out how stress affects the likelihood of divorce. After the ten-year study, this is their conclusion: The more stress a couple experiences while talking to each other, the more likely they will divorce.

According to the researchers, women register higher levels of stress hormones during conflicts (adrenaline, ACTH, and cortisol) than the men they're arguing with. And women with the highest level of stress hormones during conversations with their spouses did not have higher levels of stress hormones than normal in other circumstances in their lives.

Does this concern you? Do you have stressful arguments with your spouse? You can do something to change it. Here are some things that will lower your stress during difficult conversations with your spouse:

1. Reduce the amount of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar you consume. These substances can increase your body's reaction to stressful circumstances. Read more about how they influence stress. Reducing or eliminating them may make things worse for a day or two, but then your stress level will begin to drop.

2. Learn better ways to argue. It seems the content — the actual topics — of your arguments would have the biggest influence on how much stress you experience, but the process you use is more important. If you use a good process, the intensity of the argument remains lower, which reduces the stress of that particular argument. So your arguments become more productive, which lowers your stress level over time too. Here is how to argue with a good process.

3. Learn better ways of listening. One of the biggest causes of stress in an argument is the lack of good listening. You cannot make your spouse listen well, but you can change the way you listen, and that's good enough to alter the course of the conversation. Learn more about listening here.

4. Lower your general upset-ability through meditation. Regular meditation makes you calmer to begin with, and makes your stressful reactions less intense during arguments, leading to more productive and less destructive interactions. Here's more about what meditation is, how it works, and simple instructions for meditation.

Do any of these and you will personally feel better, you'll be healthier, and your relationship will be happier. If you're married, you'll be less likely to divorce. And all this will improve your mood immediately and over time.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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End Worry With This Powerful Technique

>> Tuesday

Bertrand Russell, the mathematician and philosopher, used a technique on himself to prevent worry, and he recommended it to others in his book, The Conquest of Happiness. "When some misfortune threatens," he wrote, "consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all it would be no such very terrible disaster."

Of course, most of us would say, "But it would be a terrible disaster!"

Bertrand Russell anticipated this remark. He goes on to say that there are good reasons to honestly assert it might not be so bad: "Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance. When you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, 'Well, after all, that would not matter so very much,' you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent."

I'd like to point out two things here. He said to look at the worst possibility "for some time." This is not a technique to do for ten seconds. Give it some time. If you really want to ease your worry, it will take a little time.

Also, he said when you can say to yourself it doesn't matter, and say it with real conviction, he does not mean pretending to say it with conviction. He means actually having looked at it enough to be able to legitimately say it really wouldn't matter that much.

He has a little more to say about the technique: "It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times, but in the end, if you have shirked nothing in facing the worst possible issue, you will find that your worry disappears altogether and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration."

This is an effective technique. It actually works, and surprisingly well. Dale Carnegie took the technique one step further and said, "Then try to improve on the worst," which I think most people would do anyway. But you can't skip ahead to improve-on-the-worst part and expect this technique to work. You have to go through a truly honest appraisal of what the worst would be and how bad that would actually be, until you realize with full conviction that even the worst wouldn't be that bad.

If you really do this exercise, you can really and truly cure yourself of a particular worry, and ease the strain on your system that the worry has been causing. To learn more about this technique and how to use it, read: The End of the World.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

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