Navigating Stress and its Impact on Our Relationships - A Very Personal Share
What happens when life's stressors, both minor and major, infiltrate our most intimate relationships? This episode peels back the effects of stress, using my personal journey of losing my mother, and the ensuing grief. I unravel the common manifestations of stress such as communication breakdowns, emotional distancing, reduced quality time, conflicts and harmful coping mechanisms, and their implications for our connections with our loved ones.
I discuss how to identify and understand our own habitual responses to stress and its unique manifestations in our relationships. We explore ways to foster self-awareness, give ourselves compassion, and muster the courage to seek healthier stress-coping strategies. Join me on this journey to reimagine and reshape our relationships even in the face of life's toughest challenges.
This is Relationships Reimagined.
✴️ ✴️ ✴️ ✴️ ✴️ ✴️
Podcast Music by Zachariah Hickman
Ad Music by Playsound from PixabySupport the show
Please note: I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or social worker. I am not attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue, disease, or condition. The information provided in or through my podcast is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific circumstance.
Welcome to the Relationship Diversity Podcast, where we celebrate, question and explore all aspects of relationship structure diversity, from soloamory to monogamy to polyamory and everything in between, because every relationship is as unique as you are. We'll bust through societal programming to break open and dissect everything we thought we knew about relationships, to ask the challenging but transformational questions who am I and what do I really want in my relationships? I'm your guide, Ca Jarislow. Bestselling author, speaker, intuitive and coach. Join me as we reimagine all that our most intimate relationships can become. It's been an intense and stressful 2023 for me. I've gone through some major life moments, the kinds of moments that are monumental, transformational, challenging, scary and unknown, along with the normal everyday stressors. Adding a rite of passage experience into an already stressful life turned everything upside down and has disrupted many of the ways I look at life. So this is the first time I've been semi-ready to talk about what happened. Earlier this year, my mom passed away after a very brief illness. It took us all by surprise, including her. In the three months since the first incident to her passing, I was in a state of nervous system overload, on edge. Most days, especially in her last three weeks, I dropped everything I could pared down my priorities and spent time with her and my brothers, gulping up every moment that I was able to feel her hand, pet her hair, look at her body. If you've heard some of my other episodes, I talk about my mom a lot An exceptionally loving, selfless woman who created the space love and acceptance for me to be me, the space to explore, search, evolve, grow and heal. She was my biggest cheerleader, from the time I was born until the time she died. The grief experience is not new to me losing my stepbrother when I was 16 years old and my first husband who, after our divorce, was one of my closest friends. Both experiences shaped me in beautiful ways and in wounded ways that I continued to heal. But losing my mom, that was and is like no other experience. Not only were all the feelings new and overwhelming, but I had very little personal space and ability to process all that was going on. In my 53 years I've learned this about myself I process deep, heavy emotions on my own, internally, through lots of introspection and self-care. When I don't have the space or can't seem to create the space to process, my stress levels hit their limits. I become short with those I love, impatient, less forgiving, sharply focused on all the things in my life that are wrong or that rub me the wrong way. A glance from my child or partner could send me off into a rabbit hole of assumptions about how I perceive them to be feeling or thinking, and many times not aligning with what is actually going on with them. This creates tension in my relationships, which further sends me into the belief that nothing is going well and highlights my old beliefs that I'm just a burden or I can't do anything right, and so a perfect storm is created Everyday stressors plus an experience I don't know how to intellectually process, plus grief, plus little mental, emotional and physical space to sit, allow, sort, question, rest, cry and release, and well, it's not a pretty scene. Thankfully, though, with my past grief, experiences, information, a solid self-care routine in place, the willingness to let go incredible partners and family I'm starting to see shifts, and they're, in turn, helping to shift my relationships, and this is what I want to talk about today how stress, big and little, and challenging times can affect relationships if ignored, stuffed down or muscled through, and if you're going through something like this in your own life, ways that may help you to move through these times with more connection than disconnection. Over the past four months since my mom's passing, I've been working on being super aware of how stress and challenges affect me and my behavior. In my self-inquiry I found that, when stressed, my habitual response is to pull away, disconnect and distance myself from everyone. This comes from my childhood, when I would shut myself in my room, turn on my music and disconnect from the intense emotions that I had no idea what to do with. Through my life, I also learned that even if I was stressed, my responsibilities didn't just magically go away. So when I felt a trigger or got unsettled, anxiety would push me through my responsibilities like a bulldozer. With my most recent experience, I felt that I just had to force everything to get done, get the kids settled and quickly to bed so I could have some golden alone moments to just breathe. And then, when I finally got to those golden moments, I found myself doing distracting, mindless and sometimes unhealthy numbing activities like scrolling on Instagram or watching YouTube. This pattern led to misunderstandings, increased intention and a general sense of disconnect within myself and within my relationships. When we're going through a hard time, it's easy to inadvertently push those we care about away. Many people live in a state of stress for a majority, if not their entire day. Stress is an inevitable part of life and, if left to its own devices, can have profound effects on intimate relationships. Whether it's financial strain, work pressure, health concerns, caring for a sick family member or other life challenges, stress has a way of infiltrating the very fabric of our connections with our partners. Acknowledging, becoming aware and understanding these impacts can help speak in, to pull out from the relentless grip that stress seems to have on our lives. You are unique and your past is unique, which means that the way you deal with stress will be unique to you, and it's important to explore. But to help first, here's some ways that stress can show up in your relationships. The first is in a communication breakdown. When you're preoccupied with your own worries and anxieties, you might struggle to listen actively and empathetically to yourself and to the people in your life. This breakdown can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and, ultimately, increased conflict. Another is emotional distancing. Under stress, you might withdraw emotionally from your partners. Stress can create a sense of isolation and disconnection, breaking down the emotional intimacy that's so important for a healthy relationship. Another is reduced quality time. Stress often leads to busy schedules and a lack of quality time spent together. You and your partner may find yourself consumed by work, responsibilities or other stressors, leaving less time for bonding, relaxation and shared experiences. You may have challenges with physical intimacy. Stress definitely affects physical intimacy, leading to decreased desire and sexual satisfaction. The physiological response alone to stress, like increased cortisol levels, can impact hormone balance and decrease libido. Conflicts and arguments are more frequent. High levels of stress can intensify existing conflicts and trigger new ones. The heightened emotional state that stress induces might make you more reactive and less patient. It does for me, leading to more arguments and disagreements. Negative coping mechanisms when stressed, do you turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, substance abuse or emotional withdrawal or, like in my case, mindlessly numbing out with activities that don't make me feel good, and I just wanna say here that I do believe that there's a place for some numbing out, and it's important to be aware when those activities get out of balance, creating additional stressors and keeping you from processing your experience, your stress and your challenges. Another way stress can affect your relationships is that it can affect the ability to make joint decisions and share responsibilities effectively. You may become overwhelmed by your own worries, making it challenging to collaborate on important choices. For couples with children, stress can affect parenting dynamics. The challenges of juggling parental responsibilities and personal stressors can lead to strained interactions and difficulties in co-parenting effectively. And finally, a cycle of negativity. If you let your stress take over your life without conscious attention to processing it on your own or with help from a mental health professional, you can create a cycle of negativity that feels more insurmountable as time passes. As stressors accumulate and these negative patterns persist, it can become increasingly difficult to break free from the cycle and rebuild the relationship. So now ask yourself what is your go-to behavior when you feel super stressed? Do you pull away, lash out, deflect, ignore, numb yourself with unhealthy habits? Or something totally different? Get honest with yourself, and I encourage you to do this without judgment and with compassion and care. I often tell myself that I'm doing the best I can, acknowledging that my behavior is really just trying to keep me safe, acknowledging and honoring myself for my past, while questioning it lovingly and choosing to want to shift it to something more healthy. Despite these potential challenges, it's important to note that stress doesn't have to spell doom for intimate relationships. In fact, recognizing and acknowledging your own habitual coping mechanisms and investigating how stress is impacting your relationships is a significant step towards healing and creating a different, healthy experience. The work starts with you, and taking a deep breath and mustering up all the courage you can to do this work is really important For some guidance. I wanted to share some of the things that really helped me begin to move through the overwhelming grief and stress into more connection with myself first, and then into my relationships. First, I acknowledged my grief. I acknowledged that there was gonna be a process, I acknowledged that this was a new experience for me and I allowed myself to sit in the unknown of how I would move through the emotion. I'm still doing this. I showed myself compassion, acknowledging that it's okay to have difficult times, that my emotions were valid, understandable and okay. I looked at what was on my plate, the responsibilities that I had, and asked myself the really important question what would happen if I let this responsibility go for the time being? I looked at what my overall vision and goals were and allowed myself the space to trust that, if I pulled back to give myself healing and processing time, that they wouldn't disappear. I also allowed the space for me to let them transform into new visions and goals. After looking at both my responsibilities and my vision, I came up with a very dialed down list of my absolute priorities. For me, this was my relationships, my children, this podcast, some other basic responsibilities with my other business, and that's it. This released so much pressure from my everyday life, which created more space for me to be quiet and reflect. I doubled down on my self-care. I spent more time on my yoga mat, more time in meditation and many times in what I call sleep meditation, where I put on a meditation and fall asleep, and I allowed myself time to stay in bed and rest. When new opportunities or requests came my way, I ran it through the filter of does this bring me pleasure and joy? And the question of how much time will this actually take out of my life? It would have been very easy to fill up my schedule, even with things that excited me or were joyful. I became very discerning about my yes. I identified and acknowledged my coping mechanisms, my go-to behaviors with stress For me, mostly disconnection, and this is important. I chose differently, not all the time, but when I did, it always helped me and as I practiced this experience of choosing connection and communication over disconnection and distancing. I found that I wanted to do it more and it got easier. Part of this involves communicating what's going on with me, actually saying that I'm having a hard day, instead of withholding and confusing my loved ones with my distant energy. Many times it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me, but they wouldn't know that unless I told them. I'm showing myself patience and empathy, understanding that processing grief is not an overnight process. I give myself the space to just be, be where I'm at, show myself love and compassion and acceptance for where I am, and not forcing myself to be anywhere other than in this moment with the emotions I'm feeling. I'm embracing gratitude for the moments that I feel good. They may be fleeting, but when I feel good and grateful, I want to sit in those moments as well. And, finally, I'm reaching out to my support system when I need it. I am incredibly grateful to have an amazing husband, a loving partner, three awesome brothers, two caring children, countless friends and even acquaintances who have offered their ear to listen and shoulder to cry on. If you don't have someone like that in your life, reaching out to a mental health professional can be so helpful Just expressing yourself and having someone tell you that it's okay to feel your feelings can make a world of difference. Through all those steps, I found that my relationships are getting more connective, more loving, more fulfilling, more nourishing and more heart-opening than ever. Life's challenges do not define us. Rather, it's our response to them that shapes our relationships and our path towards healing, and that healing helps us to evolve and step into more of our authentic selves. Stay curious. Thanks so much for listening to the Relationship Diversity Podcast. Want to learn more about relationship diversity? I've got a free guide I'd love to send you. Go to wwwrelationshipdiversitypodcastdotcom to get your sent right to you. If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to the podcast. You being here and participating in the conversation about relationship diversity is what helps us create a space of inclusivity and acceptance together. The more comfortable and normal it is to acknowledge the vast and varied relating we all do, the faster we'll shift to a paradigm of conscious, intentional and diverse relationships. New episodes are released every Thursday. Stay connected with me through my website, carriejeroslowdotcom, instagram or TikTok. Stay curious Every relationship is as unique as you are. Are you wondering why you never seem to find lasting fulfillment in your relationships, or do you create the same kinds of relationship experiences over and over again? Can you never seem to find even one person who you want to explore a relationship with? Have you just given up hope altogether? If this sounds like you, my recent book why Do they Always Break Up With Me is the perfect place to start. The foundation of any relationship, whether intimate or not, is the relationship we have with ourselves. In the book, I lead you through eight clear steps to start or continue your self-exploration journey. You'll learn about the importance of self-acceptance, gratitude, belief, shifting and forgiveness, and given exercises to experience these life-changing concepts. This is the process I use to shift my relationships from continual heartbreak to what they are now fulfilling, soul-nourishing, compassionate and loving. It is possible for you. This book can set you on a path to get there, currently available through Amazon or through the link in the show notes.