Between 75% and 90% of medical appointments in the US are related to stress in some way. Stress is a natural biological response: it is our body reacting to stimulus it feels it doesn’t have the resources to cope with, which has a practical function on a basic, biological level. Sources of stress are many and varied, but some of the most common stressful life events have to do with one of the most necessary parts of being human: relationships. The death of a loved one, arranging a marriage, and going through a significant breakup are three of the most stressful things we can go through. Here’s a closer look.
Losing a Loved One
It’s not surprising that the death of a loved one comes highest on the list of most stressful life events. Part of the reason for this is that bereavement affects us all differently, and it’s impossible to predict or plan for how the grieving process will affect us. Grief takes us through a gamut of feelings ranging from shock to anger to sadness, and it often takes a physical toll too. Multiple studies have found an increase in morbidity following the death of a loved one, with one finding that men were 2.08 times more at risk of chronic heart disease in the first six months after the death of a spouse.
The death of a loved one is something experienced by everyone, and it is the most stressful time in your relationship with the person you lose. Take care of your physical health during this time: eat well and rest as much as possible. Share your grief with friends and family, and seek professional support if your emotions become overwhelming.
The Happiest Day of Your Life
The death of a loved one may seem like an obvious stressor. What may be less obvious is what should be one of the happiest times in a relationship: a wedding. A survey of 500 couples found that 96% found wedding planning stressful, and 86% reported an excess of three stress-related symptoms while planning their wedding. Organizing a large scale event is one reason for this stress; managing complex family relationships is another; and the pressure we put on ourselves for our big day to be perfect adds to the problem.
To reduce the stress before your wedding, acknowledge your feelings, and allow yourself to feel grief that day you’ve dreamed of your whole life might not be quite what you imagined. On a practical level, allow ample time for organization, and outsource what you can. Setting aside 10% of your budget for a wedding planner can help you avoid the stress brought by logistical challenges, and will be very worth the investment. Above all, remember that this is a celebration of your relationship: at the end of the day, this is all that really matters.
When a Relationship Breaks Down
No matter how stressful the planning was, most couples really do find their wedding day to be one of the happiest days of their lives. Unfortunately, not all relationships survive though, and occasionally, even the happiest marriage may end in divorce or separation – and it’s no surprise that this is one of the other most commonly cited sources of stress. Even when both of you are in agreement that the relationship has reached its course, the practical, legal and emotional considerations can take their toll on your mental health.
If you find yourself faced with separation, lean on a strong support system, and allow yourself time to make decisions. Look after your physical health, eating well, taking regular exercise, and prioritizing sleep. If you have children, talk to them openly, and try to maintain an open dialogue with your partner. Sometimes protecting our children from a divorce can be a huge source of stress in itself, and in the long run, they will benefit from your honesty.
The relationships we build throughout our lives are some of the most important parts of being human, and unfortunately, this means they can sometimes hurt. Some of the most commonly cited sources of stress pertain to matters to do with our relationships. There’s nothing you can do to prevent this, but there are things you can do to manage the stress and keep its implications to a minimum.