Stress and relationships

There is a close, two-way link between stress and your relationships with family, friends and romantic partners: If something is going wrong with your relationships, you can feel stressed. Or if you are feeling stressed by other difficulties, your relationships could be affected e.g. being irritable and raising your voice at your loved ones. Of course, the good thing about this two-way link is that if you’re feeling stressed, your loved ones could play a great part in reducing your stress, making it easier for you to face your problems.


Where is the stress in your relationships?

Try thinking of who are the people in your life, how you feel when you are with them and rate how stressful you feel around them. Then think about how often you see the person, whether you want to see them more or less than you do now, or whether this is about right:

Who How stressed I feel around them (0-10) Frequency of contact
1: too much
2: about right
3: too little
Extended Family
Romantic partner




Are there people you feel good around but don’t see much of? Could you do things to see more of this person?

Are there people you can reduce contact with? Obviously if that is your family, it could be a bit tricky! But it may be that there are people who stress you out that you don’t need to see much of:

Hazel sees Joanne weekly to play tennis and thought that this was a good way to relax. But when she completed the worksheet above, she realized she rated Joanne as very stressful. In fact, it turned out that when they went to lunch after the game, Joanne always stressed her out. Joanne would ask how Hazel did in her tests, and told Hazel that she should lose some weight even though she was in a healthy weight range. So, Hazel would go home feeling more stressed and feel bad about herself. Hazel knew that Joanne was unlikely to change and decided that she would see Joanne monthly for tennis to see if that would help.


It may also be that looking at the worksheet has made you realize you are more alone than you thought, which could lead to stress. Sometimes people can cut away from their friends when they are going through periods of change in their lives e.g. moved house, changed schools, lost an important relationship and found it difficult to pick up friendships. In each of these cases, it may be helpful to re-connect with people e.g. your old schoolmates, joining a new activity or society to meet people.

Of course, not all relationship problems can be helped by how often you see people. Often, the most stressful relationships are with people whom you are closest to and want things to be better with.