In Wednesday’s posting on The Gottman Relationship Blog, in which we shared a recent study out of UC Berkeley on the relationship between sleep and relationship conflict, we brought up the importance of cultivating good habits in self care, one of the most critical tools in maintaining healthy relationships. This weekend, we offer you a few of Dr. Gottman’s tips for goal-setting and stress management! We hope that the following lists will help you as you work to find balance and create a healthier lifestyle, both for yourself and for your relationship.
DR. GOTTMAN’S TIPS FOR GOAL SETTING:
- Make your goals specific and measurable. Rather than telling your partner that you would like to talk more, suggest that you go on a date every other Saturday. Leave the kids with the babysitter and find some time for just the two of you.
- Think about the pros and cons of making healthy changes. If we stick with the example above, we could imagine that a pro would be the ability to feel closer to each other and relax (at a favorite dinner spot, on a jaunt through a beloved park, in a cozy cafe), and a con could be the price of the babysitter.
- Break big goals into little ones! If you want to get in shape, don’t go crazy – this will only add to your stress. You know how much your butt is going to hurt after your first day running two hours on the treadmill. Go slow. Start with smaller increments. Apply the treadmill example to everything.
- Ask for support! If you want to take care of yourself, remember the people closest to you – the ones you can count on. Call them if you want a boost of encouragement!
- Anticipate obstacles and have a backup plan! If you take a moment to be honest with yourself and realize that your new self care plan might be as fleeting as a New Year’s Resolution, don’t feel defeated! You are in control. Imagine the difficulties you may face in accomplishing your goal. For example, if going on a run every morning is going to be unrealistic once your kid starts school, try to come up with a solution that you feel confident will work. Could you work out a carpool with other parents so you have more time to yourself? Could you run in the evenings?
- Make a daily plan and track your progress! Ask yourself the following questions frequently: What are my intentions today? (“I’ll go on a run tonight” or “I’ll stay away from the croissants at our staff meeting today” or “We’ll talk over dinner tonight, no more TV for a little while”)
- Reward yourself for short-term and long-term successes! (“Yay! I ran!” or “Yay! I didn’t eat a croissant!” You get the idea…)
Worn out? Here are some of our ideas for activities to diminish your personal and mutual stress levels that will leave you feeling a little lighter.
- Filled with nervous energy or frustration? Take some time to engage in physical activity and work it off, simultaneously staying fit and healthy! If it helps to diminish stress, bring your favorite music along. The relief you gain from spending an hour or two exercising will diminish your likelihood to snap at your partner.
- Love reading? Dive into a book. Let yourself fall into the world of fiction or, if you prefer to fill your head with facts, explore a book on your favorite academic subject!
- Miss your friends? Skip over to your favorite coffee shop or local watering hole with a few close friends. Taking the time to reconnect with those who feel like your home away from home will leave you all feeling rejuvenated. Also, you can get things off your chest that have been weighing you down.
- Play an instrument? Want to learn? Take a trip into the land of music and experience its incredibly cathartic escape. It will likely provide you the sense of satisfaction and freedom that leaves you ready to face the real world.
Remember that you can enjoy any of these stress-free activities with your partner! Here are a few more ideas for relaxing together – choose from the ones below or come up with your own, and you may learn more about each other in the process, strengthening your bond!
- Watch your favorite show together.
- Go on a jaunt through the neighborhood.
- Explore a beautiful park – take a hike if you’re in the mood! Watch a sunset.
- Go on a date.
- Take the kids to get ice cream.
Note: We’d like to share a link to something we wrote almost a year ago on The Gottman Blog! This entry offers important tips for reducing stress within your relationship, with particular focus on improving sexual happiness – we direct your attention to the bulleted list at the bottom.
Whew! That’s a lot to think about. Don’t panic! Remember that these lists are ways of keeping you and your relationship from being overwhelmed in daily life.
The activities we share with you today are not prescribed for immediate use. This blog entry is a resource, one that you can return to any time. This weekend, take a moment to relax and try an activity above. Which ones sound good? Take them for a spin!