Welcome to Day 10 of HuffPost Healthy Living's 14-Day Stress-Less Challenge! In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, our goal is to use the next two weeks to focus on becoming less stressed and more calm. Today's expert is Dr. Lloyd Sederer, M.D., HuffPost's mental health editor and author of "The Family Guide To Mental Health Care," who will be explaining why relationships -- particularly family relationships -- can be a source of stress. Read through today's challenge, then tell us -- either in the comments, on Facebook or @HealthyLiving -- how it's going. Just joining us? Catch up on what you've missed here and sign up to receive newsletters for the rest of the challenge here.
Think about the top five stressors in your life. Chances are, a relationship -- whether it's with a significant other, friend or family member -- makes it on the list. Not that the relationship itself is a source of stress and struggle; rather, the time and energy that is required to maintain a growing, loving relationship sometimes doesn't jibe with all the other things we have going on in our lives. "When we try to have a full life, with love and work, there will be times we are trying to put 10 pounds into a five pound bag," says Dr. Lloyd Sederer, M.D., HuffPost's mental health editor. "That in itself will be a source of stress. The solution is not an unidimensional life -- it is a full life led thoughtfully."
With family relationships specifically, many sources of stress can be traced back to some common themes, one of them being making time for yourself while still attending to others' needs. We all need time, support, independence -- but it can be hard to meet the needs of others when we still have to make sure our own needs are fulfilled. Another theme is money ("It has been said that it can be harder to talk about money than sex," Sederer says) -- namely, how it is used and who pays for what. Sederer also notes that the inherent differences within families, whether it's the joining of families when a couple is married (in-laws!), differences in background or religion, family expectations (is someone expected to run the family business, for example?), can also become sources of stress. Sederer offers some advice for tackling these common sources of strife within families:
1. Take the "share the dilemma" approach when conflicts arise. Sederer explained that this involves saying something like "I don't know if you've noticed, but it seems to me …" before going into the actual area of trouble. He noted that it's hugely important to not bring this up while you're still in the heat of the moment. This way, you can make it known to the other person that you don't want the relationship to suffer but that you want to make it better by talking through the problem to find a solution.
2. Lay it all out on the table. Make sure you are aware of what your family members value, which can help to guide decisions with both money and time. This applies to financial decisions and inter-family relationships ("What is each partner's relationship with their family? Get this out on the table early," he advised).
3. Find ways to spend time together that are the least stress-inducing for all. Involve everyone in the planning so that each member has a say, and avoid activities that are apt to trigger conflict.
Stress-Less Fact Of The Day: Take a stroll through a forest. Research from Japan shows that taking a walk through a forest can help to lower stress and depression.