Stress, Women and Sound Sensitivity

SH Stress Women and SoundCourtesy of Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute, a new study indicates that stress may make exhausted women over-sensitive to sounds.  The research offers evidence that women suffering from stress-related exhaustion exhibit hypersensitivity to sounds when exposed to stress.  In some cases, a sound level corresponding to a normal conversation can be perceived as painful.  This according to a study from Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute which tested sensitivity to sounds immediately after a few minutes’ artificially induced stress.

The study, which is published in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE, involved exposing 348 people (208 women and 140 men) between the ages of 23 and 71 with low, medium or high levels of “emotional exhaustion” to five minutes of experimentally induced physical (hand in ice), mental (performance on a stress test) and social (being observed) stress.

The results show that women with a high level of emotional exhaustion exhibit higher sound sensitivity after an experimentally induced stress exposure than those who were not exhausted.  Some even experienced sound levels as low as 60 decibels, the level of normal conversation, as uncomfortably loud.  People with a low level of exhaustion, on the other hand, became less sensitive to sound immediately after being exposed to five minutes’ stress, a phenomenon that the researchers describe as “shutting their ears” – a normal stress reaction.  The same trends could be observed in men, but the differences were not statistically significant.  The researchers also point out that, interestingly, there was no difference in sensitivity to sounds between the groups prior to the stress exposure.

“When you are hypersensitive to sound, some normal sounds, such as the rattle of cutlery or the sound of a car engine, can feel ear-piercing,” says Dan Hasson, Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and affiliated to Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute. “Given how common it is for people to work in environments with different kinds of disturbing sounds, this hypersensitivity can be really disabling for certain individuals.”

An earlier study by the same research group shows that some 32 percent of working Swedes report some form of auditory problem (impaired hearing, tinnitus or both). It has already been established that stress is linked to hearing problems, although the mechanisms are not fully understood; the present study, however, is the first to demonstrate empirically a direct association between experimentally induced stress in humans and hypersensitivity to sounds.

The Stress-free Marriage – Part 2

Both spouses must be able to “see” the cycle that has taken over communication between them, before they can begin to make any changes.

In identifying the cycle, each spouse must accept (even without agreeing with it entirely) that regardless of whether each spouse is guilty or innocent of wrongdoing against each other, the cycle itself is the most pressing problem. What matters most is not what cannot be talked about (the content), but why it cannot be talked about (the process). Noticing the process that takes place in most discussions helps the couple identify their cycle.

Noticing the cycle helps the couple identify who between them is most likely to play the role of pursuer or that of the withdrawer. The pursuer notices that she or he acts this way out of feeling disconnected from the other, e.g., feeling alone, isolated or ignored. The withdrawer notices that he or she acts this way as a defense against the pursuer’s strong emotions and repeated attempts to connect.

In the cycle, both the pursuer and the withdrawer have run out of options on how to reestablish a positive, intimate connection with each other. Noticing that the cycle has taken over and that either spouse is powerless to break it on his or her own is crucial for positive change to occur.

The cycle of destruction cannot be stopped or changed until both spouses agree to lay down their verbal and emotional (and sometimes physical) weapons. Thus, the first step is a mutual truce, by which both partners intentionally agree to stop causing emotional pain to each other.

To break the cycle, both spouses must also become aware of how what one is saying is received by the other and how he or she is reacting to it. Instead of being concerned simply with what he or she wants or means to say, both spouses must become familiar with how the other receives it and responds to it.

Safe Haven MarriageMany problems in couple communication are created or made worse by one spouse meaning to send one message and the other spouse receiving another. The cycle of destruction can be broken by doing less of what does not work, e.g., tit-for-tat escalation, and more of what works, e.g., active listening.

The next step in breaking the cycle of destruction is by joining each other’s side. When two spouses feel passionately about an issue or have different viewpoints, they often take a confrontational stance toward each other. They will figuratively stand facing each other. Often they will talk at each other rather than to one another.

A much more effective and safer way of communicating differing points of view is for one spouse to join the other and stand together on the same side while examining the issue. This does not require the spouse who initiates the joining to automatically agree with the other’s point of view, but it allows both spouses to alternatively see things from the same perspective.

In joining, the issue being addressed becomes “our” common problem that both spouses try to resolve together, rather than working against each other. In this way, neither spouse “owns” the problem alone. The problem is viewed as external to both spouses and something that challenges both as a couple, as opposed to coming between them.
The cycle of destruction is broken by making it “our” problem and by refusing to engage in its pattern any longer. Accepting that the spouse is not the enemy (even though he or she might feel or have felt as such) helps the couple externalize the problem of faulty communication and use more positive ways of connecting with each other.

In creating a safe haven for each other, both spouses become intentional in viewing the other more frequently as a potential ally and friend, and less frequently as a potential enemy. Each spouse is willing to have unconditional positive regard for the other, refusing to take the role of parent, judge or critic of the other.

In a safe haven marriage, each spouse gives the other more than just the benefit of the doubt on most issues. They both intentionally believe and are willing to accept their spouse to be innocent and guileless and to regard him or her as truthful, innocent of wrongdoing, and worthy of respect.

If and when an issue arises that causes a spouse to doubt the other’s sincerity or innocence, the doubt is handled with all the respect and loving care that a close, intimate partner deserves. Doubts are expressed in an inquiring rather than accusatory way, with the intention of learning the truth and respecting that the other’s perception of it may be different.

In those instances when a breach of trust occurs, or something is said or done, or not said or done that causes emotional injury to the other, each spouse is willing to give the other a pass. A pass must be openly declared as such to be effective, so as to not go unnoticed and build resentment. A pass does not deny the need for apologies or amends, but recognizes and accommodates the humanness and fallibility of each spouse.

Empathy in marriage is striving to see the other spouse’s point of view, trying to imagine his or her feelings, and accepting that both points of view and feelings are legitimate and that they deserve to be expressed and heard with respect. In the safe haven of marriage, opinions and beliefs are admitted without prejudgment or penalty.

Each spouse hears and makes room for the other’s point of view and the feelings that go with it, without seeing it as either right or wrong, but simply as his or hers. Empathy is present when a spouse expands his or her point of view to make room for that of the other spouse. Both points of view can, for a time, exist alongside each other as the spouses engage in a dialog to come up with the best possible solution to their issue.

Empathy extends beyond successful problem solving. Empathy is present when one spouse accepts and makes room for the shortcomings of the other, without being critical or judgmental. In helping each other overcome their personal challenges, both spouses show their interest in learning how the other sees the problem, how it makes him or her feel, and what obstacles stand in the way of growth.

Emotional safety is facilitated when each spouse has the inner assurance that the other is genuine and truthful in what he or she says. Genuineness is the active ingredient that must be present for feelings, words, and behaviors to convey the truth to each other. Genuineness provides the opportunity to know each other more intimately and completely and to rely on the truth of this knowledge to take whatever action may be necessary to strengthen, maintain or repair a safe haven relationship.

Genuineness, when embraced and maintained by both partners, strengthens the relationship and the feeling of being able to share with and receive from the other the good, the bad, the ugly and the indifferent of life together. There is power in knowing that, no matter the issue may be, each spouse can know it at the same time as, and with the same level of detail, as the other does.

Genuineness maintains a safe haven marriage healthy and strong. It helps repair any temporary breaches that may occur, and do occur, in every relationship. Although seeing eye to eye in all things and always maintain a balanced approach in every issues may seem goals worth pursuing, they are unrealistic, given our imperfect control over our emotions, words and actions. Accepting of naturally-occurring relationship breaches, and the ability to repair them successfully, are enhanced by the inner assurance of genuineness toward each other.

Truth in feelings, words, and behaviors sets the spouses free. They become aware of each other’s challenges, shortcomings, successes, and uncertainties, as soon as they happen. Each spouse is given a fair opportunity to respond to the other in the most appropriate way. Truth builds and maintains trust between the spouses. Sometimes truth may hurt, but lies always destroy. Without genuineness, there cannot be trust. Without trust, there cannot be a safe haven marriage.

Alasting marriage is built on the bedrock of emotional safety. A safe marriage is one where both spouses have each other’s back. No longer living as individuals, husband and wife genuinely share their lives with each other in every conceivable way. A loving marriage, where each spouse can be trusted and counted on to understand, empathize with, and unconditionally accept the other is a treasure of incalculable value.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. I Corinthians 13:4-7

The Stress-free Marriage – Part 1

Safe Haven MarriageA good marriage is a stress-free, safe haven for both spouses. In its fold, both partners come to feel emotionally secure and emotionally stable.  They become physically, emotionally and cognitively connected to each other.  There is no challenge or difficulty that cannot be confronted and successfully managed together, as a couple.

In the safe haven of marriage, each spouse feels freer to be truly herself or himself.  Both partners learn to make adjustments to better fit their personality to the other, and over time these changes become almost effortless, are positively motivated, and are long-lasting.  Neither feels compelled to be significantly different from his or her true self.

When a marriage is emotionally secure for both partners, discrepancies in points of view do not cease to exist.  A safe marriage is not a marriage without disagreement.  It is a marriage where disagreement, when it occurs, is handled with fairness, mutual respect, and with an eye toward a mutually beneficial resolution.

Spouses that are in the habit of providing an emotionally safe environment for each other know how to externalize their problems in a way that does not make either spouse to be the problem.  They know that the problem is the problem, not each other.

Both partners learn to work on their significant issues together.  There is no problem of one spouse that does not automatically involve the other.  The partners come to embrace each other’s challenges as their own and are empowered to confront them together.  They know that two working together are stronger, safer and more effective than either working alone.

Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.  And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other.  But how can one be warm alone?  –Ecclesiastes 4:9-11.

For a variety of reasons, marriages can start out to be or become emotionally unsafe.  An unsafe marriage is one where both spouses co-create an emotional barrier that keeps them from being close to each other.  This barrier can be made of negative experiences, negative expectations, or negative assumptions about each other and about the relationship. Read more

The John Lennon Syndrome

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon

I love this quote from John Lennon and often share it with clients when they’re feeling frustrated because things haven’t gone the way they planned; they haven’t made as much progress as they’d hoped; or perhaps a goal that was important to them hasn’t been achieved. Quite often this is due to the fact that ‘life’ simply got in the way.

Life Happens and sometimes it can throw up unwanted and unexpected challenges. I’ve experienced this myself in the past couple of months and have found myself having to deal with some very stressful situations. As a Life Coach I try to walk my talk and most of the time I feel I live a fulfilling and balanced life.  But I don’t always get it right and there are times when everything is knocked for six.  And I know that I’m not alone — this happens to everyone from time to time.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned over the past few months:

Firstly, when we find ourselves in a stressful or challenging situation it’s really important to find ways to shore ourselves up and take care of ourselves. Take the pressure off — take it easy — don’t force yourself to do more than absolutely necessary.  Try to eat well, take some exercise, perhaps book in for a massage or healing or reflexology — whatever you find to be therapeutic. If you’re feeling anxious, find something that will act as a distraction, be it listening to music, going to a movie, doing a hobby or taking a walk — whatever works for you.

Secondly, if you have limited emotional and physical energy and resources, it’s crucial to make smart choices and concentrate only on those things that are of the highest priority.  What’s most important?  Each morning ask yourself what are the three areas I need to focus on today?  Forget everything else — just give yourself those three things to focus your attention on.  If you can get more done then great, but don’t ask or expect too much of yourself.

Thirdly, reach out for support.  It’s important not to try to soldier on and shoulder everything on your own.  Seek out family and friends who you can talk to — share your concerns — spend time with people who care for, and will support, you.  If you don’t have anyone to confide in, and your concerns are going round and round in your head, it can really help to get them out of your head and down on paper.

Finally, choose a positive image or mantra which you can use whenever you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed — or if you’re finding it hard to sleep. Think of something that embodies strength or calmness, or whatever emotional state you feel you need.

Mine is taken from this beautiful stone carving:  All shall be well.

No doubt many of you will have experienced what I call the John Lennon Syndrome in your own lives.  Don’t be too hard on yourself when life gets in the way and you don’t achieve as much as you’d hoped. ‘Life’ happens. Be easy on yourself and go with the flow. That’s what I’m learning to do.

Annabel Sutton

ICF Professional Certified Coach
Author of 52 Ways to Change Your Life

Connect with Annabel on LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/annabelsutton. Book a FREE Coaching Consultation with Annabel. Find out more about Life Coaching.

Stress and the Typical Male

typical-male Although all men are fully capable of experiencing the full range of human emotions and can face a variety of challenges, certain issues can occur more frequently in men than they do in women. Among the challenges that occur more frequently in men, the most common are self-medication through the use of alcohol or other substances, anger management, impulse control, and problems with emotional and sexual intimacy.

For many men, the healthy expression of stressful negative feelings can be a challenge. The typical male relies very heavily on a “logical or rational” approach to most emotional or psychological issues. Often from childhood, men have been accustomed to think that emotional vulnerability equals weakness and that it should be avoided as much as possible. Given this mindset, it is understandable that for many men it is objectively difficult to share with others how they are truly feeling. For some, it may even be difficult to read their own emotions correctly, to know for themselves how they are really feeling about certain issues. Issues arise that may require an adjustment of these beliefs and attitudes, as for example in the inability to connect, to open up in relationships, or in knowing how to be sensitive.

When this complex set of stress-inducing emotions are routinely avoided, repressed or denied, some problematic behaviors can result. Mismanaged emotions and feelings often produce addictions, compulsions, and avoidance. One of the most common ways of expressing hurt or emotional pain is anger; for other men, working longer hours helps them avoid relationship challenges; for others, superficial intimacy takes the place of genuine connection; other men resort to addictive substances and compulsive behaviors to “take the edge off” or avoid the full experience of negative feelings.

There are many counselors who specialize in working with men’s issues. The right counselor can help identify and work through avoidance, repression and denial in a way that appeals to men’s desire to approach issues in a logical, rational and goal-oriented way, while providing guidance toward learning about the values and benefits of emotional intelligence.

Female Soldiers At Greater Risk for PTSD

US_Flag_Flying_1Results of a 3-year longitudinal study of 2665 female National Guard soldiers began in 2008 of their mental health status before and after their deployment to Iraq provides new evidence that women have more than twice the risk of developing combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than their male counterparts, 18.7% vs. 8.7%. Women soldiers, with the same level of combat exposure, are also much less likely than men to feel prepared for combat (14.3% vs. 32.2%) or to take advantage of unit cohesion, which are the two most important protective factors against PTSD.

When we investigated the reasons for this we found men felt much more prepared for combat than women, and they were also much more likely to feel they had the support of their unit than women.—Anna Kline, Ph.D. Principal Investigator, Department of Veterans Affairs–New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange

The results of this study, presented May 17 at the American Psychiatric Association 2011 Annual Meeting, confirm previous studies among the general population, which have shown a higher prevalence of PTSD from all causes among women compared with men. What made this study among servicewomen possible was the higher percentage of female soldiers in combat zones, which in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom reached a high of 14% of total deployed forces.

According to the researchers, these findings may be more accurate because the study was conducted in anonymity. This factor alone may have improved the reliability of findings, as asking sensitive questions about mental health and substance use among identifiable servicemen and women has been shown to produce less that candid responses.

"The military now has integrated gender-based basic training so men and women do prepare together. However, it is possible that even if they get exactly the same training, their perceptions [of training] could be very different. It is also possible that training is geared more towards the strengths of men, so they feel more prepared to handle the rigors of combat. These are areas that need further investigation," said Dr. Kline.

Stress in Pregnancy a Health Risk for the Child

aavanEyck_1434_ArnolfiniMarriageAn anxious expectant father can make a pregnant woman more anxious, and their combined higher level of stress can have a negative influence on the health of their newborn child. While it is a well-known fact that significant mental distress in pregnant women due to anxiety, lack of social support or low self-esteem can result in higher health risks for the infant child, the impact of fathers’ anxiety heretofore had not been examined.

A new study shows that the stress related to pregnancy uniquely affects the mental health of expectant fathers, and that this in turn also has an effect on the health of expectant mothers and their infants. A University of Missouri researcher arrived at these conclusions by examining the underlying factors of the Prenatal Psychosocial Profile as a composite measure of stress, support from partner, support from others and self-esteem; and compared factor structures between pregnant women and expectant fathers.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing was conducted on 132 expectant mothers and fathers in a sample of 66 low-income couples living in rural Missouri between 2006 and 2008.

Similarities and unique differences between expectant fathers and mothers were found. Among the stress factors, ‘problems related to family’, ‘the current pregnancy’ and ‘feeling generally overloaded’ were perceived as financial stressors by men but as emotional stressors by women. In terms of perceived partner support, women believed they were receiving more tangible support from their partners through actions such as help with tasks or care, while men felt that they were receiving more emotional support.

Among study participants, women had higher self-esteem than men during pregnancy. The assessment of psychosocial well-being in both women and men during pregnancy, especially careful assessment of stressors of pregnancy is deemed useful not only in establishing stress levels and providing adequate stress management tools to both men and women, but most especially in ensuring that reduced levels of stress and anxiety are less likely to impact the health of their infant child.

Sigmund Freud: What a Funny Guy!

freud-of-the-pampas_357025Sigmund Freud lived and worked in the Austrian capital, Vienna until the Nazi Anschluss of 1938 placed him and his family in great peril. Freud was allowed to leave Austria with his family through the intercession of his patients Princess Marie Bonaparte and William Bullitt, and diplomatic pressure by the United States. One condition imposed by the Germans for his safe conduit was that Freud state that he had been treated with due respect. In response, Freud is reported to have declared, ‘‘I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone.”

Freud viewed humor as an outlet for discharging psychic energy and reducing the emotional impact of negative events. He regarded humor as one of the most adaptive defense mechanisms.

The essence of humor is that one spares oneself the affects to which the situation would naturally give rise and overrides with a jest the possibility of such an emotional display. Freud, S. (1916)

In his groundbreaking study of humor, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud hypothesized that jokes and dreams serve to satisfy our unconscious desires. Jokes provide their unique pleasure by allowing a temporary release of inhibitions and permitting the safe expression of sexual, aggressive, playful, or cynical instincts that would otherwise remain hidden and inexpressible. Laughter is the release of defensive tension that has been aroused by the circumstances that precede it. Tension can be elicited by behaviors, feelings or thoughts associated with anger and sexuality—in situations where their expression would be inappropriate. When ego defenses that inhibit their expression become unnecessary, as when the joke’s punch line is revealed, the energy that would be normally suppressed can be released in laughter.

There are two ways in which the process at work in humor may take place. Either one person may himself adopt a humorous attitude, while a second person acts as spectator, and derives enjoyment from the attitude of the first; or there may be two people concerned, one of whom does not himself take any active share in producing the humorous effect, but is regarded by the other in a humorous light. To take a very crude example: when the criminal who is being led to the gallows on a Monday observes, ‘Well, this is a good beginning to the week’, he himself is creating the humor; the process works itself out in relation to himself and evidently it affords him a certain satisfaction. Freud, S. (1928)

Freud also wrote “Humor” (1928), a brief paper in which humor is distinguished from wit and comicality, whereby humor represents an internalized form of forgiveness that changes one’s perspective and provides some relief from emotions associated with disappointments and failures. Likewise, humor permits the reinterpretation of failures as being of lesser importance or seriousness than initially believed, thereby transforming such failures, said Freud, into “mere child’s play.”

Stress and the Female Brain Advantage

drlouannbrizendineIn 1994, Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, established the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic in San Francisco—one of very few such institutions in the world—and focused her attention on the etiology and functioning of the female nervous system.

In 2007, she published The Female Brain as the culmination of her 20 years of research and a compendium of the latest findings from a range of disciplines. It is a fascinating and, in some ways, startling revelation of the most noteworthy particularities that characterize the human female brain.

Size Does Matter… and So Does Density

Women and men have very nearly the same number of brain cells, even though the female brain is about 9% smaller than men’s. This fact had been known for some time and had been, more or less jokingly, interpreted as meaning that women were not as smart. Dr. Brizendine reveals a much simpler explanation: women’s brain cells are more tightly packed into the skull.

To further dispel any notion of masculine brain superiority, she says, women have 11% more language and hearing neurons than men and a larger hippocampus, the area of the brain that is most closely associated with memory. Much more developed in female brains than male’s is also the circuitry for observing emotion on other people’s faces. Dr. Brizendine concludes that, when it comes to speech, emotional intelligence, and the ability to store richer and more detailed memories, women appear to possess a richer brain endowment and thus a natural advantage.

The amygdala in males, on the other hand, has far more processors than in females, which could explain men’s greater intensity in perceiving danger and their higher proneness to aggression. The male body is much quicker to mobilize to anger and take violent action in reaction to an immediate physical danger.

Are women not as capable of reacting to danger? Dr. Brizendine says that a woman’s brain is as capable to perceive danger or deal with life-threatening situations, but that it mobilizes the body’s resources in quite a different way. The female brain appears to be wired to perceive greater stress over the same event than a man’s. This greater arousal and more forceful stress reaction appears to be a natural way to ensure adequate protection against all possible risks to her children or family unit. Brizendine suggests that this ancestral reason may account for the way a modern woman may view unpaid bills as catastrophic and naturally perceive them more intensely threating to the family’s very survival.

[amtap book:isbn=0767920104]

MRI scans have pushed knowledge much higher by allowing the observation of the workings of the brain in real time. The brain lights up in different places depending on whether it is stimulated by love, looking at faces, solving a problem, speaking, or experiencing anxiety. What lights up, where and when, is different between men’s and women’s brains. Women use different parts of the brain and different circuits to accomplish the same tasks, including solving problems, processing language, and generally experiencing the world.

This is a fascinating book for the scientist and the novice alike, well worth reading. It is the Stresshacker Recommended selection for this month.

Abuse in Childhood May Mean Shorter Life

aavanGogh_1885_AutumnLandscapeAccording to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the experience of verbal, physical, sexual abuse, or severe family dysfunction, such as an incarcerated, mentally ill, or substance-abusing family member, domestic violence, or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation, is directly linked to serious problems in adulthood, which may include substance abuse, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and premature death.

The combination of risky behaviors such as substance abuse, the effects of severe depression on variables such as suicide, and the incidence of deadly diseases such as diabetes and cancer contribute to an elevated risk of early death in adults who experienced abuse and dysfunctional family environments. More specific studies have confirmed that individuals with six or more adverse childhood experiences were almost twice as likely (1.7  times) to die before age 75 and 2.4 times more likely to die before age 65 years, i.e. below to well below normal life expectancies.

The CDC analyzed information from 26,229 adults in five US states (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington) using the 2009 ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) module of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is operated by state health departments in cooperation with the CDC. The results of the analysis show that 59.4% of the interviewed reported having at least one adverse childhood experience, and 8.7% reported five or more.

The prevalence of each adverse childhood experience ranged from a high of 29.1% for household substance abuse to a low of 7.2% for having an incarcerated family member. Over one quarter (25.9%) of respondents reported having experienced verbal abuse, 14.8% reported physical abuse, and 12.2% reported sexual abuse. In measures of severe family dysfunction, 26.6% reported separated or divorced parents, 19.4% reported that they had lived with someone who was depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal, and 16.3% reported witnessing domestic violence.

The analysis reiterates the risk for long-term impact on health and mortality of childhood abuse, stress and trauma. Numerous studies (Sansone & Poole, Ozer, Best, et al., Heim, Newport, et al., Bremner et al., to cite only a few of the most recent) have confirmed the positive and significant correlations between childhood physical abuse, emotional abuse, and witnessing violence and the number of psychophysiological and pain disorders in adulthood.

Freshmen Stress, Debt Worries Grow Higher

JeffersonMemorial_EN-US2610056053Results of the 2009 survey of over 200,000 first-year students at 4-year American colleges, administered by the Cooperative Institute Research Program of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, show that at least 67% of freshmen are concerned about financing their college cost, the highest percentage since 1971. Moreover, 53% of first-year students have taken out loans to finance college, 4% more than in 2008 and the highest percentage in the last ten years. 

The global economic downturn is having an impact on the characteristics, attitudes, and beliefs of incoming first-time students at four-year institutions. They are more concerned about finances, more likely to take out loans and need grants in higher amounts. They will likely be graduating with higher debts and have shifted majors and career aspirations away from business fields. Although the values of these students coming into college show a slight retrenching towards financial security and less towards social agency, there is hope that their increased desire for volunteering and community service will foster an increase in such attitudes during their college careers. — Pryor, J.H., Hurtado, S., DeAngelo, L., Palucki Blake, L., & Tran, S. (2009). The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2009. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.

The students are describing themselves as being “below average” in their emotional health in higher numbers than ever before. The percentage of students who described their emotional health as above average fell from 64% in 1985 to 52%. Female students have a less positive view of their emotional health than male students, by a wider than ever margin: 18% of the men compared with 39% of the women. Female students also accounted for 60% of the number of students who reported having sought mental health services during their first year of college.

Among the principal causes of the increase in stress, the economy appears to play the major role, due to much greater financial pressures on parents and the students’ own worries about college debt and job prospects after graduation. 29% of the students surveyed reported that they had been frequently overwhelmed by stress during their senior year of high school, up from 27% last year.

Growing Interest in Pastor Stress and Burnout

The issue of the biopsychosocial consequences of acute and chronic stress on church ministers has attracted nationwide attention over the last few years, and the level of attention appears to be on the increase. Our post Stress and Burnout Endanger Clergy Health published on August 4, 2010 rapidly rose to second all-time most-read among Stresshacker readers. Clearly, the issue stirs interest among all of us, and especially pastors, church leaders and judicatories, not only for its health implications, but also for the consequences of chronic stress on interpersonal relationships, productivity, job satisfaction, the danger of burnout and of increasingly rapid turnover among church leaders of all denominations.

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Obesity 18, 1867-1870 (September 2010) published the research High Rates of Obesity and Chronic Disease Among United Methodist Clergy by Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Sara H. LeGrand.

Researchers used self-reported data from United Methodist clergy to assess the prevalence of obesity and having ever been told certain chronic disease diagnoses.

Of all actively serving United Methodist clergy in North Carolina (NC), over 95% (n = 1726) completed self-report height and weight items and diagnosis questions from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).

The questionnaires were used to calculate BMI categories and diagnosis prevalence rates for the clergy and to compare them to the NC population using BRFSS data. The obesity rate among clergy aged 35–64 years was 39.7%, or 10.3% higher than their NC counterparts in the general population.

Clergy also reported significantly higher rates of having ever been given diagnoses of diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, angina, and asthma compared to their NC peers.

This research is the most recent, most completed and empirically validated. Clearly it does not address but a few of consequences of stress and burnout. Its results cannot be extrapolated to other organizations, other locales and other manifestations of stress. Nonetheless, it is valuable as a snapshot that identifies an area of investigation that is worth exploring.

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Clergy Members Suffer From Burnout, Poor Health was broadcast by National Public Radio on Talk of the Nation (August 3, 2010) with guests: Paul Vitello, religion reporter, New York Times; Robin Swift, director of health programs at the Clergy Health Initiative, Duke University Divinity School.

The broadcast discusses how priests, ministers, rabbis and imams are generally driven by a sense of duty to answer calls for help. The guests touch on research, which shows that in many cases, pastors rarely find time for themselves. The hypothesis of the broadcast is that members of the clergy suffer from higher rates of depression, obesity and high blood pressure, and many are burning out. Listen to Talk of the Nation: Clergy Burnout [30 min 18 sec]

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Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work, written by Paul Vitello and published in The New York Times (August 1, 2010)

“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

Also published in the New York Times, Congregations Gone Wild, written by G. Jeffrey MacDonald (August 7, 2010)

“But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people. As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.”


Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, has been widely quoted to have said:

The four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in this order) are the president of the United States, a university president, a CEO of a hospital and a pastor.

The setting in which this quote was uttered is unknown, but it continues to be reported as factual. A recent retelling of this quote can be found here.


Episcopal clergy ‘very stressed,’ but ‘very happy’, written by Herb Gunn and published in the official web site of the Episcopal Church USA (August 12, 2010)

“Through analysis articulated in the Clergy Wellness Report (2006) and the initial findings of the Emotional Health of Clergy Report (2010), we have observed that there is more to the challenge of clergy stress than fickleness of congregations and the cultural pressures of increased consumerism among churchgoers.

This research points to interesting conclusions that differ slightly from the research Vitello noted, as well. CREDO’ s research found that the only major health factor for which Episcopal clergy are at greater risk than the larger population is stress. Yet, remarkably, work-related stress, which frequently leads the general population to employment dissatisfaction, job loss or job change, exists alongside notably lower “turnover intent” for Episcopal clergy. Compared to the general population, Episcopal clergy report significant levels of well-being, self-efficacy and meaning in their work.”


What Pastors Want, written by Rich Frazer of Focus On the Family (2009).

“We in the United States lose a pastor a day because he seeks an immoral path instead of God’s, seeking intimacy where it must not be found.

Focus On the Family statistics state that 70% of pastors do not have close personal friends, and no one in whom to confide. They also said about 35% of pastors personally deal with sexual sin. In addition, that 25% of pastors are divorced.”


On the cost and grace of parish ministry – Part III, written by Jason Goroncy and published on the Christian-themed blog Cruciality (August, 2010)

Mistaken attitudes to the issue surrounding clergy burnout are not helped by the frequent interchangeability of the terms ‘burnout’ and ‘stress’. While related phenomena, burnout and stress describe different realities. In his wee booklet Ministry Burnout (Grove Books, 2009), Geoff Read makes the point that ‘stress is essentially the physiological or psychological response to many different sorts of situations and demands … Burnout is one response to sustained exposure to certain sorts of stressors. A person reaches a state of burnout when the three factors of emotional exhaustion, detachment and sense of lack of achievement have reached a level of such severity that the person’s ability to function is significantly impaired’ (p. 6).”

{tab=Statistics}

This is a list of sources that have published statistics, from various sources, on the state of physical, relational, managerial and financial health of church ministers across a wide spectrum of US denominations. Some of the statistics are second- or third-hand reports of data published elsewhere, and the original source is not always identifiable. Thus, readers are cautioned about drawing specific conclusions from these data.

Pastor Burnout Statistics by Daniel Sherman. Many of Mr. Sherman’s numbers below come from H. B. London’s book, Pastors at Greater Risk:

  • 13% of active pastors are divorced
  • Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members
  • The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions
  • 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers
  • 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue
  • 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do
  • 70% don’t have any close friends
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure
  • Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

The following pastor demographic and church statistics compiled by Mr. Sherman come from George Barna’s book, Today’s Pastors: A Revealing Look at What Pastors Are Saying About Themselves, Their Peers and the Pressures They Face:

  • 97% of pastors are male
  • The median age is 44
  • 96% are married
  • 80% have a bachelors degree and half have a master’s degree placing the pastorate among the most educated professions – but among the lowest paid as well
  • The average length of a pastorate is about four years
  • The median pastor salary is about $32,000 a year including housing allowance and other benefits, while the national average among married couples (1991) was nearly $40,000
  • 24% of the American population is 50 or older but 51% of church attenders are at least 50 years old
  • 40% of church attenders read the bible during the week
  • 30% of congregation members would seek help from their pastor during a difficult time in their lives
  • 53% of pastors believe that the church is showing little positive impact on the world around them
  • 60% of pastors believe that church ministry has negatively impacted their passion for church work
  • 51% of pastors expect that the average attendance at their church will increase by at least 10% in the coming year
  • 4% of senior pastors (say they) have a clear vision for their church

The following list of pastor statistics (and the comments that accompany them) was compiled by Jim Rose of Year of Jubilee. In some instances, the primary or secondary source of the data is provided.

  • More than 70% of pastors do not have a close friend with whom they can openly share their struggles. The dominant cause for pastors to leave the pastoral ministry is burnout. Number two is moral failure. These are alarming statistics.
  • 80% of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries – 1998)
  • Only 50% of pastors felt that the education they received adequately prepared them for ministry. Most pastors rely on books and conferences as their primary source of continuing education. (George Barna – 2002)
  • 25% of all pastors don’t know where to go for help if they have a personal or family conflict or concern. 33 percent have no established means for resolving conflict. (George Barna – 2002)
  • 40% have no opportunity for outside renewal like a family vacation or continuing education. There is a very clear relationship between the amount of time a pastor takes for personal renewal and his satisfaction in his job. (George Barna – 2002)
  • At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit. (Church Resource Ministries – 1998)
  • More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month (Marble Retreat Center 2001)

Several web sites cite research done in the 1991 Survey of Pastors by The Fuller Institute of Church Growth. This institute, connected with Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, does not have a web site and may no longer be in activity.  The original research could not be located for this post. The numbers refer to the situation as it may have existed among pastors over twenty years ago. It may indicate that what pastors are experiencing now is not new.

  • 90% of US pastors work more than 46 hours a week
  • 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
  • 33% believed ministry was a hazard to their family
  • 75% reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry
  • 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
  • 70% say they have a lower self esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
  • 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
  • 37% confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend

Alan Fadling  published the following ministry burnout statistics in 2009, unfortunately without referencing the source of his data.

  • Churchgoers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks
  • Pastors who work fewer than 50 hours a week are 35 percent more likely to be terminated.
  • 87 percent of Protestant churches have full-time paid pastors.
  • 50 percent of all congregations in the United States are either plateauing or declining
  • Two-thirds of pastors reported that their congregation experienced a conflict during the past two years; more than 20 percent of those were significant enough that members left the congregation
  • The typical pastor has his/her greatest ministry impact at a church in years 5 through 14 of his pastorate; unfortunately, the average pastor lasts only five years at a church.
  • 90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 40 percent report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 40 percent of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
  • 19 percent of pastors indicate that they’d been forced out of ministry at least once during their ministry; another 6 percent said they’d been fired from a ministry position

The Francis Schaeffer Institute Statistics on Pastors was compiled by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir. The numbers and his comments are published here verbatim.

“Here are some startling statistics on pastors; FASICLD (Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development). This quest started in 1989 as a Fuller Institute project that was picked up by FASICLD in 1998.

From our recent research we did to retest our data, 1050 pastors were surveyed from two pastor’s conferences held in Orange County and Pasadena, CA—416 in 2005, and 634 in 2006 (I conducted a similar study for the Fuller Institute in the late 80s with a much greater sampling).

Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
Nine hundred forty-eight (948 or 90%) of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).

Nine hundred thirty-five, (935 or 89%) of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. Five hundred ninety, (590 or 57%) said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
Eighty- one percent (81%) of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). (This is Key)

Eight hundred eight (808 or 77%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!
Seven hundred ninety (790 or 75%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.

Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
Eight hundred two (802 or 71%) of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.

Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.

Two hundred seventy (270 or 26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality. (This is Key).

Two hundred forty-one (241 or 23%) of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!

Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied), (This is Key). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)”

{/tabs}

How To Deal With 6 Personalities Under Stress

Pisa%20-%20Piazza%20dei%20Miracoli%20-%202How does each personality style tend to handle a significant stressor? And, if we happen to be the spouse, significant other, sibling or friend of any of these, what is the best way to interact with them while they are under severe stress? To answer these questions, it is necessary to understand their most relevant characteristics, the most likely meaning of the stressor to each style, the most likely feelings or responses evoked among other people that interact with them, and tips on the management of this interaction.

The Dependent Personality Style

Relevant Characteristics Under Stress: May become needy, demanding, clingy. May be unable to reassure self and will seek reassurance from others.
Meaning Attributed to the Stressor: Threat of being abandoned and left all alone. 
Feelings Evoked: May make others feel powerful and needed. May also make them feel overwhelmed and annoyed.
Management Tips: Reassure within limits, mobilize other supports, reward personal efforts toward independence, avoid the temptation to withhold all help.

The Obsessive Personality Style

Relevant Characteristics Under Stress: Meticulous, orderly; likes to feel in control; very concerned with right/wrong approach.
Meaning Attributed to the Stressor: Dangerous loss of control over body, emotions, impulses.
Feelings Evoked: May elicit admiration for their attention to detail; may also provoke anger—a “battle of wills” due to their perfectionistic approach.
Management Tips: Provide choices to increase their sense of control, provide detailed information, focus on a collaborative approach that avoids the battle of wills.

The Histrionic Personality Style

Relevant Characteristics Under Stress: Entertaining, melodramatic.
Meaning Attributed to the Stressor: May fear loss of love or loss of attractiveness.
Feelings Evoked: May make others feel anxiety, impatience, off-putting dramatic gestures.
Management Tips: Try to strike a balance between warmth and formality, maintain clear boundaries, encourage them to discuss fears, avoid confronting them head-on.

The Masochistic Personality Style

Relevant Characteristics Under Stress: “Perpetual victim,” self-sacrificing martyr, may expect negative outcomes.
Meaning Attributed to the Stressor: May view the stressor as conscious or unconscious punishment.
Feelings Evoked: May provoke anger, hate, frustration, helplessness, self-doubt.
Management Tips: Avoid excessive encouragement, share their pessimism (albeit without agreeing).

The Paranoid Personality Style

Relevant Characteristics Under Stress: Guarded, distrustful, quick to blame or counterattack, sensitive to slights.
Meaning Attributed to the Stressor: Proof that the world is against them.
Feelings Evoked: Anger, feeling attacked or accused, defensiveness. 
Management Tips: Avoid assuming a defensive stance, acknowledge their feelings without disputing them, maintain interpersonal distance, do not confront irrational fears.

The Narcissistic Personality Style

Relevant Characteristics Under Stress: Arrogant, devaluing, vain, demanding.
Meaning Attributed to the Stressor: May view it as a threat to self-concept of perfection and invulnerability; may be shame evoking.
Feelings Evoked: May cause others to feel anger, a desire to counterattack, activate feelings of inferiority.
Management Tips: Resist the desire to challenge their sense of entitlement, provide opportunities for them to show off, offer appropriate advice if requested.

The Ultimate Stressor: Being Mark Madoff

MarkMadoffThe sudden, sad news of Mark Madoff’s suicide at the age of 46 while embroiled in as many as nine lawsuits against him and his family was not entirely unexpected and also somewhat unsurprising. From a clinical point of view, Mr. Madoff was at moderate to high risk for suicide or self-inflicted injury, but also benefited from several “protective factors” that could have made his choice of suicide less likely.

Nonetheless, the barrage of news that portrayed him as under investigation for being his father’s accomplice (without any indictment), his having become virtually unemployable, the shame of being a Madoff in a world where the surname has become a synonym for a crime of epic proportions eventually proved too much to bear. Mr. Madoff’s options progressively narrowed to one single choice which he exercised alone in his Manhattan apartment in the early hours of a Saturday morning: death by suffocation.

The pressure of the last two years weighed on him enormously… He was deeply, deeply angry at what his father had done to him — to everybody. That anger just seemed to feed on itself… That’s why I never believed he knew about the fraud. He was always a nervous wreck. He could never have stood it — keeping a secret like that would have torn him apart. –- Statements by Mark Madoff’s friends to the New York Times

Was the last straw his wife Stephanie’s application to the courts to have her last name and that of her two children changed to “Morgan”? Was there an early sign in his October 2009 disappearance, when he was eventually located at the Soho Grand Hotel, in a single room, alone with his thoughts and, some say, a weapon nearby?

By all current standards of risk for self-injury or suicide, Mr. Madoff was a danger to himself. The risk factors for suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention are:

  • A family history of suicide
  • A family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)—was the Soho Hotel episode a precursor?
  • A personal history of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression—Mr. Madoff was reportedly prone to depressive mood swings and physical ailments, including stomach troubles; also, Mr. Madoff had always seemed sensitive to criticism and tended to take his grievances too much to heart
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness—unsurprising given the relentless drumbeat of negative news, the literal and figurative loss of identity that had beset Mr. Madoff for the last several years
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies—Mr. Madoff was said to be deeply, deeply angry at his father and at everyone else
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • A local epidemic of suicide
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)—Mr. Madoff had lost his job, the only one he had ever had, when his father’s firm was shut down and had no prospect to find employment
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods—Mr. Madoff first tried the vacuum cleaner cord, which broke, then his dog’s leash, which proved to be sufficiently strong
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts

On the other hand, the protective factors that can make suicide a less likely choice are:

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking—after the Soho Hotel episode Mr. Madoff had obtained counseling, which seemed to have steadied him
  • Family and community support (connectedness)—Mr. Madoff was happily married and had two small children, in addition to two children from a previous marriage, and was well-connected with a network of childhood, school and business friends
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation

Clearly, a diagnosis of Mr. Madoff’s true mental state and whether he benefited from any of these protective factors and to what extent he may have been at risk is impossible to make by reading news reports and at a distance. His death makes a specific statement that trumps all other assertions of low risk or protective factors. As well-connected and potentially as well-supported as Mr. Madoff was, ultimately he found himself literally alone to face the only choice that to him seemed to offer an escape from a life that had lost its meaning and its anchoring points of identity and hope for the future.

Making Your Marriage Last and Thrive

SH_Rcmds_smWhat makes a good marriage last? According to the best evidence provided by thousands of studies and experimental research (most prominent that of Dr. John Gottman), marriages where the spouses provide a safe haven for each other and a secure base from which to face the world together provide the best chances of success. A key skill that all good partners acquire is that of arguing in a fair manner, which respects the other’s point of view (without necessarily agreeing with it), seeks to understand the reasons underneath each respective position, and negotiates a fair compromise.

If you are a couple, you most likely have arguments. Big or small, they can ruin a day and, even worse, a relationship. Dr. Sharon Morris May says, "It’s not how similar you are or even your level of conflict that determines your marital success but how you deal with your emotions, vulnerabilities, and dragons when you argue." In her book, How To Argue So Your Spouse Will Listen: 6 Principles for Turning Arguments into Conversations, Dr. Morris May presents conflict through the lens of attachment theory, helping couples understand why they argue, how they argue, and how to unravel arguments. The book also helps spouses identify what’s really going on in their brains and in their bodies when they argue, the cycle they get stuck in, the emotions fueling the cycle, and what can help them argue in more considerate and connecting ways.

[amtap book:isbn=0849918685]

How To Argue offers six practical principles that can help turn arguments into real conversations: Establish a Safe Haven, Comfort Each Other’s Dragons, Get Inside Each Other’s Emotions, Learn How to Complain, Learn How to Apologize, and Bookend It With Good Times.

Learning how to argue so your spouse will listen and in ways which will not lead to irreparable breaches is a fundamental skill that perhaps you did not learn in your prior relationships or from our own parents. The good news is that it is a skill that can be learned at any age and virtually at any point of your marriage: this book, the Stresshacker Recommended book for this week, can teach you how.