How Stress Can Impact Your Relationship

Whether you’re stressing over a looming deadline or feeling worried about the future, you might notice that stress seems to affect, well, everything. Maybe you’re just not getting the quality sleep you used to get on a regular basis, or have been starting to notice your skin acting up and breaking out. While it’s possible that other factors could be playing a role (certain foods can inflame our skin and everything from screen time to caffeine consumption impacts sleep), these issues are very likely connected to a root cause: your stress. From your emotions to your physical health, stress impacts all areas of life, including a very important one: your relationships. Here’s how stress and intimacy are connected, and how breathwork can be a game-changer for both. 

The Stress-Intimacy Connection 
When we’re feeling stressed, it can be challenging to think of much else, and fixating on the concerns at hand can create distance between us and our partners. According to social psychologist Amie M. Gordon, those who are experiencing extended periods of stress become “more withdrawn and distracted” as well as less affectionate. Studies have shown that we respond with less empathy towards our partners during this time, and that communication suffers significantly. Not only are we less emotionally connected to those we love, but our bodies are producing more cortisol and suppressing our sex hormones. Yeah, not super ideal. 

Managing Stress with Breathwork 
Of course, everyone experiences stress now and then, but the key is managing that stress to ensure it doesn’t turn into a long-term problem that impacts the health and happiness of our closest relationships. Enter breathwork: a mindfulness practice that helps the body and mind calm down and return to balance. Although you can certainly practice breathwork on your own as a way to manage individual stress, practicing with your partner can lead to increased connection (Valentine’s Day activity, anyone?). Here’s a technique to try:

1. First, start by setting the space. Light a candle, set aside your technology, and find a comfortable place to sit

2. Sit across from your partner and begin to draw your attention to your breath, gently observing as you inhale and exhale

3. Place your hand over your heart as a way to further connect with the breath

4. After a few moments of connecting with your own breath, begin to notice your partner’s 

5. Slowly synchronize your breath with your partner’s 

6. Transition to the 5:5:7 technique. This is a popular technique in which you slowly breathe in through your nose for 5 counts, hold for a count of 5, and breathe out for a count of 7. Repeat this 10 times.

7. After 10 repetitions, return to your own breath and allow yourself to notice your partner’s presence. Slowly awaken your senses and return to the room around you. 

Feeling relaxed and present? That’s because the practice of breathwork allows the brain to signal to the body that everything is okay, and helps you connect more deeply with yourself and others. You can even make this a regular activity, and set aside a weekly moment to practice together. With regular management like this, you can keep stress from impacting your relationship and the intimacy you share with your partner.

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