Stress is often an unacknowledged contributor to divorce. Henry Brookman, Family Lawyer, Brookman Solicitors, explains how stress can creep in almost unnoticed, having a huge impact on your life and relationships – and explains how you can spot the early signs:
There are many definitions of stress and it can manifest in many different ways depending on the individual. The stress response can be physical, mental or emotional and is a reaction to changes, events or threats (real or imagined) known as stressors. In many cases of persistent stress, people are so used to the feelings that they do not notice them, leading to further periods of ill-health. This is why it is essential to spot the signs of stress early so that they can be tackled before they spiral out of control. Here are a few signs that you may be overstressed.
Changes in behaviour
You might notice changes in your behaviour, taking out your feelings on others in a more aggressive manner, or find situations might easily make you feel irritable. You might begin to feel overwhelmed by your own thoughts, or your mind may feel like it is in overdrive, and you are unable to switch off. You might find it harder to make decisions, constantly worrying, possibly avoiding situations and becoming more restless and tearful. We all naturally behave differently in certain situations, but if you notice changes in your usual behaviour, it could be a sign that you are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.
During periods of stress or pressure, you might find that your habits change, picking up previously kicked habits such as drinking or smoking or upping your normal consumption. It could also affect your eating patterns, reverting to eating too much, too little, or simply too late a night. You may seek comfort in foods such as takeaways or chocolate and find you are cancelling more fitness classes than you are attending. Noticing bad habits creeping in could help to alert you to the fact that stress could be negatively impacting your life.
Anxiety and Depression
If you are beginning to feel the impact of stress, you may find that it alters your outlook and personality. You might feel so overburdened that you become depressed, unable to enjoy life, hobbies and interests with the same drive and passion as you once did. You might also begin to experience physical symptoms; if you have begun to feel anxious you might have difficulty breathing, experience hyperventilating or start to suffer from panic attacks.
You might start to look upon upcoming events with dread, hiding yourself away and cancelling social arrangements which can leave you feeling neglected and lonely. You might not feel able to handle situations with the same energy and determination that you used to have, but struggle to understand why. All of these signs could indicate that stress is negatively affecting your mental health and wellbeing.
A more common symptom of stress can be poor sleep quality. Typically, your thoughts will prevent you from falling asleep, even if you feel physically exhausted. You may experience nightmares or vivid dreams which either wake you from sleep or leave you feeling uneasy in the morning. You may find that even after an apparently good night’s sleep, you do not feel refreshed and continue to feel lethargic and tired as the days go on. Stress can have a major impact on the quality of sleep we have as it is during this time that the body repairs itself and processes all of your memories. Sleep deprivation can trigger a number of physical and mental symptoms, conditions and illnesses, so it is crucial to identify any changes in your sleep which could lead to further complications.
As you read this article, notice if your tongue is relaxed in your mouth or pushing up against your palate? Most people will find that their tongue is not relaxed and that their jaw is clenched too; both signs of tension. Now think about your neck, your shoulders, even your arms, legs and back. Once you start to take notice of your body, you quickly begin to realise that you are experiencing tension in various parts of your body without even realising it. Muscle tension can lead to the release of stress hormones and can also contribute to aches, pains and general discomfort. Taking time every day to intentionally observe your body could help to identify signs of stress-related muscle tension and allow you to take the necessary steps to relax and unwind.
The impact of stress on relationships
If you are in a relationship, your partner may be noticing a difference in your behaviour and possibly feeling the brunt of your elevated stress levels.
As a divorce lawyer, I often hear that one of the reasons for filing the petition was that their ‘partner had changed’. There are many significant challenges through life which can cause a relationship to suffer and even breakdown completely, and in a number of cases the triggers are things such as careers, family life, finances or health.
If you are concerned that stress is negatively impacting your relationship, it is important to talk through your concerns with your partner. They may not be aware that you are stressed and could be assuming you no longer feel the same way for them, or have met someone else. Being open and honest with your partner about your stress will help to provide a clearer picture of the problem and together you can take steps to rectify the areas which are causing the stress in the first place.
If you can relate to any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to remember you are not alone. Speaking to a partner, friend and/or healthcare professional can help you identify the stressors that are making you feel this way and help put steps in place for you to deal with them more comfortably and confidently going forward.
To learn more about the author, please visit https://www.brookman.co.uk/about-us