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Sex and Dating: Stressing Out

Kali, Sex Goddess

Issue date: 10/10/08 Section: Focus
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As midterms approach, we're all starting to get a little more stressed with each day that passes. The mounting stress becomes palpable when you're staring at a computer screen at 3 a.m. writing, and can't focus because you're too busy thinking of the 10 other things you have to get done. Add extracurricular activities onto that, and life can get pretty overwhelming. Many times without meaning to, we take this stress out on the people we care about in a number of ways - by being short with them, forgetting to call or meet them, or picking a fight about nothing at all. This week, I'm going to try to help you see where stress comes help you from and find a better way to deal with it than taking it out on your friends or significant other.
Out-of-control stress can trigger a knee-jerk reaction that makes us feel like running or fighting, but not much of anything else. This can make our own emotions or the emotions of others seem threatening or overwhelming. There are a few common ways people respond to stress, such as getting angry or agitated, shutting down or becoming depressed and spaced out, or tensing up and feeling an inability to get going or get anything done. Everyone has probably experienced these or experienced a friend or significant other exhibiting this behavior, especially because we're college students who face a lot of stress at midterms and finals. If you see or feel any of this, don't worry; try to adopt a "this too shall pass" attitude and understand that there are things you can do to alleviate your relationship stress.
The most important thing you can do is know what type of situations, which classes, and which people stress you out so you can know ahead of time when you're probably going to start freaking out. This also goes for your significant other - it is so important to learn who and what causes them stress, and to understand that it is probably different from what causes yours. This knowledge will come over time though, and definitely not through probing. In relationships, it is very difficult to get inside the mind of someone else, particularly when they are so focused on what is going on with them; they might not want to be bothered. In that instance, it is advisable to respect that they need distance and will come back to you when they are ready. On the flip side, make sure you let them know that you need your space when you are stressing. If you know what stresses you out, you can warn your partner when you know things will be busy, and they can do the same for you. This will lessen hurt feelings that abound from stress-induced outbursts or withdrawing.
The second most important thing you can do is be there when your partner is done handling their stress, and conversely to tell your partner that you appreciate their concern and will come back to them perfectly fine in a little while if it's you who's feeling stressed. To know that stress will eventually calm down and that you will be able to spend time with someone that makes you happy is a good motivator to get through tough situations. This mindset will help you realize that stress is not a constant state of being and that relationships with friends or partners are reminders that there are more important things in life.
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