Relationships

3 Unavoidable Truths About Stress and Unhealthy Relationships

Russell Smitheram
Written by Russell Smitheram

Raise your hand if you’re a people pleaser.

If you’re like most people you do things to keep others happy.

Not always because you want to but because you fear what reaction you’ll get if you say no.

It can cause anxiety to a point where you’ll do whatever it takes to keep the peace and prevent friction even if it means dropping everything you are doing in order to do so.

After all, you’re not a selfish person so why should you put yourself first?

You sleep a little easier for it too, right?

You’re the one who responds to everybody else’s problems whilst your own needs are left out in the dark, all alone and starving.

Sound familiar?

You can’t go on like it.

Here’s the ugly truth.

This people pleasing behaviour is doing wonders for the people around you but absolutely diddly squat for you. It’s causing you unnecessary stress, anxiety and tension in your relationships, whether you consciously realise it or not.

I was a people pleaser for years until these unavoidable truths were staring me in the face:

Truth One – Saying yes all the time does more harm than good

It’s in our nature as human beings to want to help other people. There’s nothing wrong with lending a helping hand or offering a listening ear when others are in need. I’m not advocating a self imposed ban on helping people.

What I am saying, however, is that there’s a difference between wanting to help people and doing things for others because you feel you have to.

When you genuinely want to help someone you show up with enthusiasm and energy. You show up gladly and willingly with no expectation for anything in return.

From the bottom of your heart you’re just glad you can help.

When you help someone because you’re doing it out of fear you’re showing up with gritted teeth and frustration that will gradually grow into bitter resentment. This is because you’d rather be doing something meaningful in your life life. But instead your plans go on hold so you can help someone with theirs.

When you say yes to someone, you are saying no to yourself.

All the while the other person, without realising it, has taking stock of your generosity and willingness to help and will ask you again next time, and the time after that ‘because She helped me before I’m sure She’ll do it again’.

Meanwhile you’re thinking ‘I helped Him last time, I can’t possibly say no this time’.

What a dilemna!

Eventually your level of resentment increases to a point where it’s outwardly visible to the other person. Tension between you bubbles to the surface and the more the other person tries to figure out why you seem ‘off’, you’re getting more anxious because you’re afraid of the reaction you’ll get when you tell them the reason why.

This situation is unhealthy for everyone involved.

Here’s the solution:

Set tight personal boundaries and guard your time better.

Truth Two – People will respect you when you set boundaries

When you create a schedule it becomes easier to say no to someone who’s asking for something. There is a genuine reason why you are saying no. It’s not like you have nothing better to do – you have. It’s important to separate your time into two categories.

Scheduled time and unscheduled time.

You can’t accept requests during scheduled time, so that only leaves your unscheduled time to take care of. This is the area you need to guard closely. Tighten up your boundaries in this area to make sure you are taking care of your own needs first.

This is not a selfish act, this is an act of self care. You are worthy and deserving of that, just as anyone else on Earth.

Others will have more respect for you when you have more respect for your time. For those that don’t have any respect for your time once you’ve established a schedule, that’s a reflection of them and in such a case you would be wise to assess whether those relationships are healthy for you to be a part of.

Truth Three – When you’re stressed the relationship is stressed

It took me years to come to this realisation.

You know how it goes. You’re anxious around someone because you don’t know if they’re going to ask you for that favor that might ruin your plans that week.

You know you can’t say no to this person which makes you feel on edge the whole time you’re with them. You’re restless, on alert and can’t wait to get the hell out of their company so you can retreat to the safety and predictability of your own home.

That stress is outwardly showing to your friend, co-worker, family member, whoever. They end up feeling stressed when you’re around and they can’t figure out why. To them you come across uptight and fidgety like you couldn’t wait to leave.

For the sake of setting a healthy boundary and having an honest conversation about how you feel you’re missing out on what might otherwise be an amazing connection. A relationship that you enjoy being in, a warm and comforting bond that brings happiness and contentment into your life. One where you feel comfortable and at ease in that person’s presence.

If you could just open that dialogue and begin to explain what time you have got and what time you haven’t got, your relationships might be in much better shape.

Not only will you enjoy spending time with people, people will enjoy spending time with you, too.

Now you have these three truths in your arsenal it’s time to start using them to reduce the stress in your relationships.

Being a people pleaser can be harmful to your well being and deep down you know it isn’t doing you any favors.

You want to stop feeling tense and anxious about keeping people happy and you want to stop worrying about what others think;

But you can’t help it and I get that.

Start today by choosing one actionable step that you can try on a small level. Try it with one person in one situation and note how different you feel. Even the smallest change can make the biggest difference to how you feel about yourself.

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About the author

Russell Smitheram

Russell Smitheram

Russell is on a mission to simplify one million overwhelmed lives. He wants to help you gain control of overwhelming and stressful life circumstances so you can live with more calm and fulfillment. Get his free cheat sheet 14 Ways to Create a Calm Life and follow him on Twitter