In my NYC therapy practice, I see how a collective sense of imminence leaves us stressed, anxious and disengaged from our relationships. Our lives are inundated with pressures from the world. Whether we are focusing on advancing our careers or have a case of fomo (fear of missing out), never before have we been so busy en masse. Deadlines and other pressures continue to escalate. Long work hours are the norm. The bar of success gets higher and oftentimes, we focus on out-performing ourselves. Technological devices have made it much more difficult to disconnect from the demands of the workplace even when we are out of the office.
Because of this, it’s becoming harder to give our loved ones our undivided attention. Our relationships are susceptible to the strains and hardships we experience in life. Most of us expect our relationships to be a safe haven from the outside world. Our relationships can be a place where we feel nourished and supported and feel some semblance of balance and refuge. However, the chronic demands that are put on us often inhibit us from properly reaping the benefits of these relationships. We must find ways to protect our relationships from the effects of stress so that our relationships can adequately provide us with the stable bonds, which we all need to get us through life.
Think big picture
One of the chief complaints I hear in my NYC therapy practice is that people are feeling overwhelmed in their daily lives. If this is your experience, take a minute to think about what really matters in life. How do you want to spend your life? While making the next advancement at work and earning money are respectable goals, is this making you happy? What is this costing your relationships and your sense of worth? Are you and your partner struggling to connect? Do your kids get to spend time with you? When was the last time you spent time with a close friend?
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the demands people place in front of us that we forget to focus on what gives us joy or ask ourselves questions about the bigger picture. Thinking through how you want to live your life in the long run can help clarify the smaller steps needed to map out a rich, multifaceted life. It is especially important to create room for the people and relationships that nourish and sustain you as you move through life.
Prioritize your relationships and find ways to share closeness
Oftentimes one person in a relationship will feel that they are not important or that the relationship is taking a backseat to other seemingly more important issues. Make your relationships a priority. Relationships take work and this can take time! Intimate relationships, especially, require attention. Be strategic. Schedule a date night in advance with your partner and fiercely protect this time by not allowing anything short of an emergency to get in the way.
Prioritize opportunities for intimacy and deeper conversations. We are so used to shortcuts as a method of communicating. Texting and checking each others’ Facebook pages are quick ways to get an update on our loved ones. However, if this is your M.O., you can bet you’ll feel alienated and emotionally disconnected from some of the most important people in your life.
Find ways to share closeness. Create time to solidify your emotional bonds. Make a commitment to come home early once a week and spend time with your kids. We can get caught up in our daily routines and sometimes forget that we need to continue to get to know our loved ones. Join your loved ones in activities that give them joy.
Cultivate a network that supports relationships
Surround yourself with people who understand that your time with loved ones is vital to your growth and wellbeing. Relationships provide us with a sense of belonging. People who can provide support and validation are critical throughout our lifespan. Whether it’s work colleagues or your group of friends, these folks should understand that there are times when you need to step away and prioritize your relationship with your partner. Other times, they may need to take a central role in your life.
If you’re feeling isolated or disconnected, include the people that really get you. Family and friends can share in our joy and pain and help us navigate through tough times. We are not meant to live life on our own. Invite your friends’ families in your in family outings or set up a night where you can have some one-on-one time with your old friends.
Our relationships are our biggest assets. We need to take them seriously, protect them and do all we can to take care of them!