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How to Reduce Stress In Your Relationship

The stress cup tool is not only beneficial for individual self-awareness and stress management but can also foster better interpersonal skills and empathetic responses within relationships.

These Show Notes are a ChatGPT summary of the episode transcript (with brief additional editing)

In this part of the podcast, hosts Kim and Roger discuss the concept of a stress cup, a metaphorical tool that helps individuals visualize and manage their stress levels. The “stress cup” represents each person’s capacity in terms of stress they have in their lives; the cup fills with each stressor they encounter, and if it overflows, the individual experiences overwhelm. This is a simple yet powerful concept that brings awareness to how stress can accumulate and potentially negatively impact relationships.

Each person’s stress cup size is influenced by their personality, genetics, temperament, and upbringing. Furthermore, the stress cup concept underscores that people perceive stress differently; what might be a significant stressor for one person might be inconsequential for another. Kim explains that stressors, or the “liquid” that fills the stress cup, can include poor sleep, work issues, illness, relationship problems, lack of socialization, challenging life stages, financial pressures, and more.

The cumulative effect of stresses can lead to a full or overflowing cup, causing distress and overwhelm. This insight can promote empathy within relationships, as understanding your partner’s stress levels can facilitate better communication and mutual support.

However, one can reduce the amount of “liquid” or stress in their cup by opening a metaphorical tap. This involves making conscious decisions to manage stress, such as engaging in self-care practices, setting boundaries, seeking social support, etc.

Kim and Roger assert that the stress cup tool is not only beneficial for individual self-awareness and stress management but can also foster better interpersonal skills and empathetic responses within relationships. They emphasize the need for individuals to monitor their own stress levels and to support their partners in doing the same. The hosts also note that stress levels can vary from day to day, and one may start the day with an already nearly-full stress cup.

The hosts give the example of new parents dealing with a newborn to illustrate a situation where the stress cup may often overflow. They explain that it’s important to recognize when we’re at our maximum stress capacity and practice self-awareness to avoid reaching these states of overwhelm.

Techniques to reduce stress and create capacity in the stress cup include physical exercise, socializing, quality alone time, journaling, mindfulness, healthy eating, and seeking help from mental health professionals. These activities act as a “tap” to let out some stress and create space in the cup. They are acts of self-compassion and self-care.

Kim then walks through a hypothetical half day in the life of a woman to illustrate how small stressors accumulate and contribute to the filling of the stress cup. The woman’s morning is filled with minor incidents such as a partner’s snoring, a lack of clean clothes, children choosing unhealthy cereals, forgetting children’s water bottles, an overwhelming podcast, and an overload of work emails. Each incident adds to the stress cup, demonstrating the cumulative nature of stress. By mid-morning, her stress cup is nearing overflow.

The hosts, then explain a key aim should be to keep the ‘stress cup’ from overflowing by recognising stress triggers, regularly checking in on one’s emotional state, and creating proactive habits to manage stress.

Kim suggests forming a new habit of regularly checking one’s stress cup level and linking or ‘stacking’ this with an already established routine for ease. This would involve assessing how full one’s stress cup is, and what has contributed to the stress level.

The discussion moves towards how partners can help each other with their stress. Rog discusses the reluctance of men to share their stress due to fear of appearing weak or burdening their partners. He suggests that using the stress cup metaphor can facilitate communication, as one can explain that their stress cup is overflowing and that they need support.

Kim also emphasizes the importance of flipping the script from being a burden to building trust. Asking for help isn’t equal to dumping stress on a partner, but about asking for assistance in opening the stress tap. Using the stress cup metaphor, couples can better communicate their emotional states and support each other.

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To learn more about Kim & Rog's story and what inspired them to start their podcast.