Stress is an almost inevitable part of life.
Stress is, therefore, something you will face in your relationship.
When your partner is stressed, your instinct will be to help them.
But how can you do that?
Whether it’s your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend who is stressed, here are some handy tips to help you help them relax their body and mind.
1. Comfort them.
First and foremost, you need to be there for your partner to comfort them at this stressful time.
Give them a hug. Let them cry on your shoulder. Stroke their hair as they lay their head in your lap.
Physical touch is reassuring and can help with the immediate psychological effects of stress.
It acts as a reminder that they are not going through things alone.
Sometimes, just your presence is enough to be of comfort to them.
2. Reassure them that everything will be okay.
Stress can make us think very negative thoughts, not just about the source of the stress, but about all aspects of life.
Reassure your partner that no matter what happens, things will get better one day soon.
Remind them that you are not going anywhere and that your relationship will only grow stronger.
It will bring them comfort to know that their world is not going to fall apart, no matter what happens in relation to the source of their stress.
The only small caveat is if your partner’s stress is caused by a life-threatening or life-limiting health condition. In this situation, just keep telling them that you will take one day at a time and face it together.
3. Listen to what they have to say.
Your partner will feel more supported by you if you listen attentively to what they have to say.
In other words, let them vent and let them feel heard.
Simply saying their worries or frustrations out loud can often be enough to take the edge off their stress levels.
By affirming that you understand how they feel and why they feel that way, you are validating those feelings.
Depending on your partner, you may need to nudge them to open up to you and share what they are thinking and feeling.
A simple “talk to me” is often enough for your partner to give themselves permission to spill their guts.
4. Try to distract them from the source of their stress.
Stress tends to send our minds into overdrive as we go over things again and again.
A good way to help your partner with the immediate effects of stress is to distract them.
Cook dinner together – perhaps trying a new recipe. Insist on watching their favorite show. Keep busy at the weekends.
Turn their attention to anything that isn’t the source of their stress.
This doesn’t solve the root problem, but it does help alleviate the symptoms of stress.
And you’d be amazed at what some time not spent thinking about the issue at hand can focus your partner’s mind and motivate them to find a solution.
Which is good, because the next tip is to…
5. Help them make a plan to address the source of their stress.
Stress can be eased simply by seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
So ask your partner if you can help them formulate a plan to rid themselves of whatever is causing their stress.
Break things down into small steps that move your partner closer to a place where they no longer feel stressed about this particular thing.
Then ask what you can do to help them take those steps.
Just be aware that not all sources of stress can be overcome with a plan.
Take the grief of losing someone you love – there aren’t really any steps that can be taken. You just have to let it run its course and trust that time will heal.
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6. Ease their burdens.
Stress is often made worse when we feel overwhelmed by all of our responsibilities.
You can help reduce your partner’s concerns by taking on some of those responsibilities yourself – temporarily.
Are there ways that you can help more around the house?
Could you take an extra turn to look after the kids so that your partner can decompress?
Can you take care of something directly related to their stress?
7. Be prepared to change plans.
Following on closely from the previous point, you might want to consider accommodating their current mental and emotional condition by changing plans you have already made.
Perhaps that trip across country involving a long car or train journey could be rescheduled.
Maybe you go to your friend’s birthday party by yourself rather than expecting them to put on a brave face to hide their worries.
Can you put house-hunting on the backburner for a while until they are in a better place?
8. Remind them what really matters.
Stress can make us believe that something is more important than it really is.
Perhaps they are stressed at work. They may be consumed by thoughts about it.
All the while they are forgetting about what’s truly important in life: things such as health, family, the love you have for one another, the sheer enjoyment of nature.
It’s easy to overlook the riches in our lives when we’re focused on a pain point, so it’s your job to gently remind your partner that they are still blessed in so many ways.
9. Don’t escalate if they lash out.
Stress might make your partner more irritable and prone to outbursts than usual.
This isn’t an excuse for them to treat you badly, but it is a reason for you to try to sympathize with their situation.
If and when they take their frustrations out on you verbally, resist the urge to retaliate.
Understand that it’s not the real them that is saying these things, but that their stress is playing a huge role in how they are behaving.
By staying calm, you encourage de-escalation of an otherwise tense situation.
They will, hopefully, realize sooner rather than later that they were in the wrong and apologize to you.
But even if they can’t bring themselves to say those words, they should calm down given time.
10. Set and enforce boundaries.
As much as it helps to stay calm when they are getting upset or angry, you shouldn’t allow them to overstep the mark.
Their stress is not a good reason for them to treat you poorly – verbally, emotionally, or physically.
You should already have some boundaries in place in your relationship, but it might help to remind yourself and your partner of these if they stray too close to the line.
If a boundary is crossed, trust that it is okay to put physical distance between you and your partner – even temporarily – to protect yourself and let things cool down.
Should this happen, you must talk about it afterwards with your partner to ensure that it does not happen again.
11. Take care of yourself too.
As much as you may wish to take on some of the hard work that is required to ease your partner’s stress and help the situation, don’t neglect yourself in the process.
You must take care of yourself if you are to be able to help your partner through this.
So eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself little treats to keep your own energy high and positive.
12. Seek professional help.
If the stress your partner is under gets too much for them to deal with or for you to help with alone, seek out the help of a professional counselor.
Go with them for moral support, even if you wait outside during their appointments.
Remind them that it is a big step to admit when you need help and that they are neither weak nor a failure for asking for it.
Sometimes the experience of a qualified professional can provide the guidance and tools your partner needs to address their stress and the source of it.
Dealing with a stressed partner can put a strain on any relationship.
They may become distant or act in ways that you don’t recognize.
You may have to work doubly hard to help them and keep yourself healthy at the same time.
The key is in knowing that no problem is so big that it cannot be overcome, and that things will get better in time.
And if you can make it through these difficult moments, your relationship will be all the stronger for it.
So, yes, don’t dismiss how challenging it can be to have a partner who is under enormous stress, but don’t assume that it will tear you apart from each other either.
You are with this person for many reasons – keep these in mind during the turmoil ahead.