How to Cope with Familial Stress

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Familial Stress

“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” ~ Hans Selye

Family stress is commonly defined as a disturbance in the family ecosystem. This disturbance can arise outside of the family structure (due to war or pandemic) and also within the family dynamic, through events such as death or divorce. These changes can be expected (birth of a new child) or unexpected (winning the lottery), but almost always tend to be the main source of stress.

Coping with Family Stress

One can use the outline above to navigate stress in a familial context. By identifying the problem, and then taking small, manageable steps to a healthier lifestyle, the entire family unit can become healthier both physically and psychologically.

Here are three tips you can use today in order to start down a stress-free path:

1.) Evaluate your lifestyle: Parents establish a model for children, and children mimic these actions without question. If a child grows up in the home of a parent who has bad habits, they are likely to inherit those habits—and the same goes for good habits. That’s why starting with yourself and evaluating your own lifestyle is the best place to begin.

Do you have any bad habits that bring stress to others? What can you do to start eliminating these habits?

2.) Clean up your environment: Your social environment can heavily influence your behavior. Look around you, does the space you're sitting in feel clean and relaxing?

3.) Talk about it: The best thing you can do when you’re feeling stressed is talk about it. If you communicate respectfully and honestly to the family member who is bringing you stress, they’re likely to have an understanding ear. Engaging in conversation with others allows you to formulate clear thoughts and open communication barriers that would've otherwise remained closed.

Warning Signs of Stress

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lou Holtz

There are many triggers of stress inside the familial setting, and defining them is not always as easy as it may seem on the surface level. An argument with your significant other about your pet may seem like a simple dispute, but when analyzed, can bring years of repressed emotions to the surface. It is normal to feel stressed before or after a crisis, but when is stress too much to handle?

We seem to carry stress with us everywhere, and it displays itself in physical ways. A few symptoms of chronic stress are body complaints, respiratory problems, and other non-physical issues like moodiness and high anxiety. In the familial unit, these symptoms can seem to others like the person is being purposefully rude, when in reality they may just be highly stressed.

These symptoms are all predictors of stress, and sure they can be inconvenient and bad for your health, but what about the short term and long term effects of chronic stress on the individual?

Short-term and Long-term Effects of Stress

Short term effects: A few of the symptoms of stress that are short-term are mentioned above, but it is important to know the source of these symptoms. If you are about to give a speech and your hands are sweaty, this is a good indication that the speech is what’s making you stressed. It can be useful to know the causes of short-term stress so you can handle it in a healthy way and aren’t exposed to any long-term effects.

Long term effects: Stress can have negative effects on your brain’s amygdala, hippocampus, and temporal lobe, which are areas of memory, cognition, and learning. Long term stress can cause weakening of spatial and verbal memory, and other cognitive mood disorders.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this article improves your life to make it happier and negate unneeded suffering. For more information, visit the articles and sites listed below.

Palmiter, D., & Alvord, M. (2019) Managing Stress for a Healthy Family. American Psychological Association.

Sahraei, H. (2017) The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review. Excli Journal. 16 (1057-1072). 10.17179/excli2017-480

Boss P. (2014) Family Stress. In: Michalos A.C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Springer, Dordrecht.

Amirkhan, J. H., Landa, I., & Huff, S. (2018). Seeking signs of stress overload: Symptoms and behaviors. International Journal of Stress Management, 25(3), 301–311.

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