Making the Best of a Bad Situation

No doubt, you’ve been exposed to lots and lots of articles and books and various other communications about ways to cut down your stress. Even I address this subject both in writing and workshops as well as teaching my clients tools to deal with stress. Why? Because stress can have very adverse effects on your health — both physically and psychologically.

But there’s also another side to stress. Stress can actually have some positive benefits! In fact, learning how to deal with stress can make you resilient. You may have heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you strong.”

Growing into it

Right from the beginning, a child faces some stress–it might not fit out definition of stress, but stress is relevant. A parent who attempts to protect his or her child from all potential stress is really doing the child an injustice. As the infant is flourishing, don’t worry about playing music or having the phone ring or speaking above a whisper.

A few years later, children will meet up with challenges of not receiving the best grade or not being included on a team. These will feel like sad moments … but will provide important life lessons. After all, the world is stressful and if the child has never learned to deal with it, no coping mechanisms will have been learned.

As a psychologist who works with adults, I find a very interesting paradox in those clients who had particularly difficult childhoods. Yes, they suffered a lot of pain and unhappiness. But, in many cases, they also gained a lot of personal strength and sense of being able to count on their own resilience.

For the two of you

I read an interesting article recently about how stress impacts a relationship. Naturally, no one can anticipate when a horrible situation is going to occur. However, it’s not the stressful situation, itself, that determines how negatively it impacts a couple. Rather, it’s how the couple reacts to the stress, how they handle the adversity.

Some couples get torn apart by the negativity and pressure. They don’t know how to cope. Often, the reaction to the stressful situation, by one or both partners, is to shut down or to act out. Even when things are going well, such behavior is counterproductive; in difficult times, these reactions are even more destructive.

In contrast, when a couple can offer one another mutual support and a willingness to sacrifice, they not only weather the storm but actually help solidify the commitment to each other. It’s as if they take on an attitude of “us against the world.”

Here are some pointers to make the best of a bad situation:

  1. Social support has been found to be a wonderful buffer for stress. Use one another for support. Share your feelings … all of them.
  2. If you are having difficulty expressing your feelings, at least acknowledge that to your partner so he or she doesn’t feel shut out.
  3. Ask for what you need — it will be much easier for you to get what will make things helpful to you as well as for your partner who won’t have to be a mind reader.
  4. Hold one another; physical comfort is very soothing.
  5. Use humor whenever you can. This is another wonderful way to deal with stress.

On a personal note, someone in my extended family is very ill right now. Watching his immediate family rally around him in lots of different ways is so heart-warming. I know that the love and support they are giving him and each other will go a long way to help him through this and create a very strong bond among them that goes far beyond words.