Cathy was frustrated, angry and overwhelmed with stress. Her husband of many years and still in his early 60's was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Even though she still loved him and had a lot of empathy for what he was going through, she felt the weight of their situation more and more each day.
He was becoming more forgetful, constantly losing his wallet, keys and more and Cathy's patience was wearing thin even though she knew it wasn't his fault.
As we were talking with her about her frustration, she had a light bulb moment that seemed so simple at the time but also so profound.
She saw that when he would ask her something for the 4th or 5th time and she answered with an exasperated, "I've already told you.."
He would become even more agitated, upset and angry with her.
But something else was an even bigger aha for her...
She realized that this had been a habit of hers during their entire marriage, even before his diagnosis, and it had always turned into an argument.
She realized that this habitual phrase was completely unnecessary then and now.
We asked her if using those words helped her feel better at the time and she quietly said, "No, in fact it ups my stress level as well as my husband's."
Becoming aware of a habit that doesn't serve you or your relationships is the first step to stopping stress
Will Cathy automatically use that phrase again?
Probably, but maybe when it comes out of her mouth, she'll sometimes remember that it's just a habit that doesn't help her situation--and she can stop it without beating herself up.
We all have unconscious, habitual ways of speaking and thinking that up the stress level in our lives.
The two of us have discovered that stress is made up, even though it looks real in the moment, and we can relax and simply let thoughts pass by without reacting to them.
Sure Cathy's husband's diagnosis is real, as well as his impairment.
She can't change that.
But what she can change is her reaction in the moment that can allow more love to flow between them.
How about you?
What are some habitual words that come out of your mouth that make your relationships more difficult and stressful?
Your relationships can be filled with more love--and awareness is the first step to avoiding stress.
We're not suggesting that it's just a trick or a technique to use to NOT say something like Cathy's words to your partner.
The real magic is slowing down your thinking enough to see something new--and when you do that, answers come and not usually in the way we think.