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Managing Relationship Stress

By on May 21, 2014
Screen shot 2014 05 21 at 10.12.24 PM 300x336 - Managing Relationship Stress

   In recent years, we are hearing more about the negative affects stress can have on our health.  Research has shown that stress accounts for more than 60 per cent of all human illness and disease. In my practice, where patients come in for a variety of pain complaints, stress always plays a role of varying degrees.
  Our relationships play a major role in the quality of our life and health – for better or worse. The emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology, which brings all the sciences and arts together, defines relationships as “the way we share and exchange energy and information.” The way we share energy and information, can be a positive or negative experience. Whether in romantic, family, or friendly relationships, when there is an exchange of understanding, acceptance, love and healthy boundaries, it can be protective, healing, and restorative. 
  Conversely, continuous conflict, mistrust and power battles can put our health at risk. In fact, social loss particularly social rejection, has been linked to physical pain in MRI studies. We also know that the more aggressive partner conflicts are, the higher the levels of stress hormones tend to be, and the more depressed the immune system becomes. Not only do we exchange emotional signals through relationships but we also regulate each other’s emotional lives, and our internal physiological state.

Look within!
To counter the negative effects of conflict it is best to adopt a self-reflective attitude. Particularly, exploring our self-esteem and how that plays a role in our reactions and behaviours, can be useful when we are stuck in negative, conflict-ridden relationships. Sometimes conflict is inevitable, however, resolution is not always inevitable.

Don’t run!
Approach the conflict, don’t withdraw from it, but not to draw it out. Rather, approaching conflict with self-awareness, can result in mutual growth, love, connection and positive physical health effects. Whereas, withdrawal can leave unfinished business that remains dormant in our emotional and bodily memory storage, that can have a lasting negative health impact. When approaching conflict, I like to use the four steps to non-violent communication:

  1. Start with the facts of the interaction.
  2. Follow with your interpretation of what happened.
  3. Talk about how it made you feel.
  4. Asking for something you need and taking what you get.

   Approaching in this manner is not threatening, so your partner can stay engaged without being defensive. It does however, require openness, secure self-esteem, and willingness to forgive and understand on your part to make it work.
  Relationships have the potential to provide so much health and richness to our lives, but it is not a given. Bringing self-awareness and openness to explore attitudes, beliefs, and emotional memories of past relationships can bear great fruits that you can share with the people you love.

Chris Michailidis is an expert in the fields of pain and manual medicine. In his practice he adopts a patient-inspired and patient-focused model of care. He is a chiropractor and wellness practitioner with expertise in medical acupuncture, advanced neurofunctional assessment and treatment, neurofunctional soft tissue microconditioning, and nerve mobilization techniques. He has also studied transpersonal psychotherapy and is an instructor with the medical acupuncture program at McMaster University. 

About Charleen Wyman

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