Stressful times can leave us feeling alone, isolated, and empty if we don’t purposefully pursue connections with people.
Listen to this episode with Priceles Perreaux-Dominguez as we discuss how to pursue and create connections in stressful times.
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BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPTION OF THIS EPISODE
Priceles, I am so excited to be talking with you today because we are going to dive into this topic of how stressful times can impact our relationships. I don’t think we realize how much this bleeds into our relationships. We think it’s only impacting us.
We often disregard our responsibility for how we treat others and how we say things. I think a lot of us probably want to know what can we look for when it comes to us needing to take and put ourselves in timeout.
I think we want to be kind, loving, welcoming, and grace filled to those around us. I would hope that we as followers of Christ would want to exemplify the fruits of the Spirit in our relationships and our lives. But stress (stressful times) is a huge factor in challenging and stopping that. Maybe you’re lashing out at people quickly, getting upset quickly, or having an attitude.
I would say stress shows up in other ways. It shows up in projection. If whenever you’re talking with people, you always end up talking about yourself. Some people consider that as a selfish or narcissistic approach to communicating and it can be. However, I wouldn’t say so quick to call yourself a narcissist or selfish.
If you do that, perhaps that is a result of stress (stressful times). You’re wanting to be the person to be heard versus the one communicating. This is why you then make what’s being talked about yourself. So you’re communicating, “Hey, I need to talk. Hey, I’m stressed.” But you’re not saying it directly. You’re saying it through your projections. You’re saying it through bringing the story or whatever is being talked about back to you.
It’s important to acknowledge when we’re doing that if we have safe people in our life who say, “Hey, I was talking about this and then you just made it about you.” I would love it if we had people like that in our lives, but we all don’t. It’s also something hard to say to someone you love. People do recognize it and just don’t want to say it. But that’s something that we then ourselves get to be aware of and acknowledge.
I think it’s so interesting, we think about our relationship with God, we talk to God all about ourselves. Yet, that shouldn’t be how it is with everyone else. And that can be one of the results of the stress (stressful times) of communicating in a way that goes back to us. Then also projection can be that you and someone else are talking about something regular and then all of a sudden, you’re getting upset because of something else stressful in your life.
You’re projecting that experience to your current experience. Projection is huge and can show up in different ways in our relationships. It creates disconnection. So not only does it affect you – your mental health, your mind, your heart, and your communication. It also affects those who are on the receiving end of that conversation with you. Stressful times can bring out things in our hearts we didn’t know were there.
Fostering Relationships in Stressful Times
I love that you said projection because we haven’t even talked about that yet on the podcast. And when we start talking to somebody, how we want to be heard. We tend to get louder when we want to be heard because we feel like nobody sees us or hears us.
I love that you said it can create disconnection. Can you bridge this gap a little bit? Because I am passionate about the narrative of difficult people and toxic people and how we just want to brush everybody off to the side anymore. But what I hear you saying is there’s this welcome invitation from the other person to say, “Hey, are you okay?” Can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, I think that’s established when you create a safe relationship. So not all relationships are safe in the sense of communication, right? In our stressful times, let’s be aware of the people in our life we feel safe with. Are we creating safe relationships and communication where if someone else says something like that to us, are we receptive to it, or do we get defensive? When we can’t do that in a relationship, there’s likely a disconnection. And that’s not the worst thing in the world. There are ways to just approach that and respond to it and create a connection in our relationships.
It creates a disconnection when someone doesn’t feel safe enough to talk to you about something specific in this area. Projection can be a determiner that creates a disconnection between us. But if we choose to pray and ask God for courage and boldness in it, we can create some sort of safety in relationships that we have. We don’t want to have disconnected relationships.
That’s a great way to also communicate to people that you love them. My mom often says, “You’re so upfront and straightforward.” I’m like, “That is when you know I love you because that’s because I feel safe enough to communicate certain things to you. Now, do I always do it kindly and gently? That’s a different story. And the Lord is working on me on that, but being able to communicate certain things with people is a powerful sign that we have a connection with that person.
So I would say that’s our goal. And people want to help us with their stressful times, right? Trying to live free of stress is not an alone thing. We need relationships where we can feel safe and other people can feel safe to communicate with us.
I think, again, not everybody gets all of us. I think there are different levels of safety. I’ve had friendships that I thought were close, then as soon as you challenge them they run away and you’re left wondering what happened.
I’d like you to speak about how can we create a connection amid stress.
Yeah, this may stress some people out that I’m about to say this, but creating connection requires planning things out to be with people. Create intentional time. Often stress comes from a lack of time management and feeling like we have so much going on; we have burnout. So for me to tell you to plan something with people, you’re like, “Girl, I don’t even have an hour. What are you talking about?” But that’s why we get to prioritize and reorganize our life in a way of life priority.
What matters? What needs to get done right now versus what can be later? It’s Wednesday, but I’ve spent half the week doing that. I’m trying to organize my week so at the end of the week I’m spending some time with people that care about me. If we’re talking about relationships and how stressed we are, we have to make room to spend time with people.
And honestly, while you were with that person you may be thinking about what you need to get done. And that’s okay, right? Try to renew your mind. Ask the Lord to help you be present. But things might pop up, which is okay. Don’t condemn yourself or shame yourself for it. But don’t not make plans because you feel like you just have to get all these things done. Because then at the end of the week, you’re stressed that you didn’t hang out with anybody. You’re stressed that you were disconnected. You’re stressed that you feel lonely.
So no matter what you’re not avoiding stress, right?
This goes into the next question I want to ask you because we hear these narratives all the time, “hot mess,” we’re always “busy,” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I think these narratives push us into a more stressful mode, that creates this anxiousness. Then we end up pushing people away because we think we have to do more and be busy.
What do you recommend when people hear these phrases and narratives through a biblical lens? How do we break this down?
Overcoming Overwhelm in Stressful Times
I’m going to speak to all three. So “hot mess,” “busy,” and “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” First “hot mess” – when we’re specifically saying it about ourselves (I hope we’re not saying it about anybody else), but even if we’re not saying it, we’re thinking it about ourselves, that’s not good either.
If we’re saying that we’re a hot mess or the situation is a hot mess, we are speaking to who we are – our identity. And that’s dishonoring God because you’re saying, “Well Lord, I’m a hot mess. What you created is a hot mess.”
And there are things that we can say we acknowledge our weaknesses. We acknowledge when we fall short or we sin, but to place an identity over ourselves to say “I’m a hot mess” is placing this in yourself – you’re going to believe it. You will function as a hot mess and you will be stressed in your stressful times because you have said that is who you are.
We’re really in a place where we get to renew our minds and acknowledge that yes, I have weaknesses. Yes, I could fall short. Yes, I sin. But I’m an image-bearer and I’m doing the best that I can.
When it comes to busyness I know a lot of people talk about the Martha and Mary story, right? Martha, Jesus is like, “Hey, sis, come over here. You’re doing the most right now.” And I don’t think Martha was doing something wrong. So Martha was and in that case, Martha was just trying to be hospitable. She was just trying to make sure that Jesus is having the best time and space, right? She was trying to be busy to do that.
Make sure that when we’re thinking about the word “busy,” we know what it means and what it means for our life. So for example, last night I took a lovely bath and I was busy. I was busy taking an amazing bath. Also earlier in the day I was busy doing work. Also earlier day I was busy bathing my son. So the word busy specifically is not wrong. It’s just if we’re always communicating, “I’m busy. I’m busy. I’m busy.” then we’re creating a busy culture. It’s the goal. It’s the way we should live.
Now there’s other terminology. What if we said, “oh, I’m unavailable” or, “this week looks heavy for me”? But I try not to use the word “busy” too much because we can then make it, again, an identity. And then that means all the time we’re just busy. Going back to the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus sometimes is just simply inviting us to be present
We may be busy at that moment, but what does it look like to be available versus unavailable? At that moment, I feel like Jesus was saying, “Hey Martha, I want you to be available. You’re present physically, but I want you to be available to me.” So what would it look like for us to be people that are either sometimes unavailable and sometimes available, but not just all the time busy?
And then, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I think comes from hustle and grinding culture of “I’m gonna do everything I can in these 24 hours or these whatever hours that I’m awake.” And we can we’re capable of doing that, but why? Recently I hired a staff member to be part of my team for my business. The thing is, I could do all the things for my business, but why?
Why do I need to take up all my time to do that when I could also be spending additional time with my son, with my husband, with myself, with the Lord? So it’s not that we’re not capable, it’s that yes, we can include other people in the journey and delegate. Also, just pause. A friend of mine often says rest reminds us that we are not God. Yes, we do need to sleep. Yes, we do need to Sabbath. Stressful times are the perfect example of taking a Sabbath.
Yes, we do need to take pockets and moments to rest. Because it’s something that God did, but it’s also something that just reminds us that we don’t need to work so hard towards something without including God. And if God is included in it, He will invite you to rest. Psalm 127 says, “It is in vain that you rise early and go to sleep late, eating and bread of anxious toil, for He gives to His beloved sleep.”
Right there He’s saying it is foolish to not sleep. So I’m going to try to sleep and I’m a new parent so sleeping right now is hilarious trying to figure it out. But I still commit to trying.
Greatest Impact on Relationships
I think all of those are great examples of the next question I want to ask you as we wrap up. I think so many of those also impact our relationship and connections, right? So as we wrap up creating connections in stressful times, could you share one to two practical things that you do to help manage stress and create connections in relationships?
I would say one is I try to organize my time well. That looks like creating pockets of actual intentional time with my family. I don’t write down my schedule for the day hoping they’ll cancel because if they cancel, I can speak with my son. No, I put that in my schedule as well. I put when I made breakfast in my schedule.
That’s my version, right? I think it’s figuring out what works for you, but time is something we can never get back. It’s also a huge gift that we can manage well, really asking God, “Lord, how can I make this work? How can I be better in this?”
I would say the other thing when it comes especially to people is being intentional. And even if your back and forth in texts like “oh, I can do Saturday.” “Okay well, I can do Tuesday.” “well, I can’t do Tuesday.” We’re all adults, we all have heavy weeks. Don’t let that challenge deter you from spending time with people because that is life-giving. And it is also a huge tool to reduce stress.
Be intentional about spending time with people while also being intentional with spending time with yourself. Your relationship with yourself is incredibly important too.