• Stress is a normal part of life, but when it becomes too much it can cause you to suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • The good news is we have power over many potential external stressors—including the quality of our relationships.
  • We often experience stress when our relationships are suffering, such as when we argue with our friends or don’t get along with our significant other.
  • However, if we take good care of our relationships, we can avoid this stress factor—and an important step in doing so is spending meaningful time together.
  • Another key is effective communication: this allows you to resolve conflicts that arise and build an even stronger bond with the people in your life.
  • Finally, be kind to and considerate of those who mean the most; often, these are the people who catch our bad side when they really deserve our love and appreciation.

Stress plays a significant role in our health and overall wellbeing: not only can it make an otherwise good day bad, but it can trigger headaches, raise blood pressure, cause heartburn, and increase our risk for developing mental illnesses like depression… and that’s just to name a few negative effects. Clearly, stress comes with a whole lot of baggage—baggage that we want nothing to do with. This isn’t always easy though, as everyday things like getting stuck in traffic or having to stay late at work can make our blood boil. But there are other external factors when it comes to stress that we have significant control over: such as the quality of our relationships.

We tend to experience a great deal of stress in our relationships when we don’t take proper care of them. Think about it: it’s often impossible to focus on anything else when you’re fighting with your best friend or you haven’t been getting along with your significant other. Not to mention how stressful it can be to not have these people to turn to during difficult times. This makes maintaining healthy relationships important—doing so eliminates a significant stress factor and improves wellbeing. And while there are plenty of ways to take good care of your relationships, we can break down three key areas of importance:

Spend Meaningful Time Together

First, you should prioritize spending meaningful time with your loved ones. This means putting your phone down, tuning in to the conversation, and lending your full attention. Ellie Cobb, Holistic Psychologist, explains:

“One of the most effective ways to create healthy connections and maintain positive relationships is to be fully present in the moment with the other person. Everyone wants to be seen, heard, and understood. In our busy and full lives, it’s easy to be distracted. Cultivating meaningful lasting relationships require attention… really listening, adopting a nonjudgmental attitude, and offering your full attention to another allows both brains to attune to each other.”

To maintain and enhance your connections with your people, here are a few tips from Cobb:

  • Put your phone down.
  • Make sustained eye contact.
  • Listen with an open heart and mind.
  • Give them a nice, big hug.

Communicate Effectively

Another key to healthy relationships is communicating effectively. Eric Hunt, marriage coach and licensed wedding officiant, explains: “Strong relationships are about open communication and sharing. Many individuals find themselves in relationships where they have fun together, but are unable to openly communicate their feelings, desires, and wishes. Often, this leads to further issues in the relationship and is usually the root cause of most major disputes.”

Additionally, when it comes to your romantic relationships, Hunt says better communication leads to greater intimacy. “Couples who are able to effectively communicate are able to better understand one another and experience greater intimacy. When coaching couples prior to marriage, I walk them through exercises to implement effective communication thus strengthening their bond and ability to resolve issues before they become major problems in the relationship. The natural ability to communicate openly is a sign to me that a relationship is likely to last.” Now, here are a few steps you can take to communicate effectively and in turn nurture healthy relationships with your family, friends, and significant others:

  1. Be clear.
  2. Use “I” statements.
  3. Ask for feedback.
  4. Practice non-defensive listening.
  5. Reflect.

Be Kind and Considerate

And finally, it’s vital that you prioritize being kind to your loved ones, considering not only what’s in your best interest but their best interest as well. “Persuading someone to accept your position or opinion is a useful exercise in a courtroom, but generally not in the kitchen,” Couples Mediator John Hoelle explains:

“Examine why you feel the need to have the other person accept your point of view on any particular topic. In other words, investigate like Sherlock Holmes the areas where being right is more important to you than affinity. This is your wounded younger self running the show, not the true, mature you. Here’s a simple exercise: channel the other person’s issues and speak from there, in order to completely validate that position. Then switch. Conversations have little value (and can often be harmful) when there is no present commitment to taking care of the other person, to make them happy. Recognize how much power there is to build relationships by relinquishing a position and holding someone’s heart.”

In summary, prioritize treating your loved ones with kindness. When you feel the need to snap, you should instead practice patience. And when you’re tempted to act selfishly, try to remember how important they are to you. Doing so will further your connection, make your foundation stronger, and improve your overall wellbeing.