How to ask for help and navigate stress (the at-home edition)

(my experience)

“All advice is autobiographical”

This blog is highly subjective and based on my own experience in this journey of life.

I find that we learn how to navigate life based on a range of tips and tricks from a wide range of people. I hope that there are some angles, tips, or new ways to frame things that you haven’t perhaps thought of before, which might be useful to you!

 

 

1. If it’s serious, take it seriously

If your partner isn’t “getting the hint”, rest assured, not many people will. We cannot dive into your brain. It’s a really hard lesson to learn, but it will serve you well in every area of your life when you can articulate clearly what you need. 

Couching a conversation about what you need is key to communication. Taking the time to think about tone, and how you’re going to say what you need to say, is important – if not critical. 

Dropping that you’re “overdoing all the housework” as you sail out the door for work probably won’t sink in. 

If it helps, jot down your points and call a family meeting – or whatever you do in your home (maybe it’s a good time to invent one now). 

Create a system to flag to your partner when you need to chat. Some people don’t need this and can just say “hey, I just want to chat about…” but some need a clear space to stop and think. 

If it’s serious, take it seriously. 

And when it comes to the happiness, stress levels or communication in your home, it’s worth prioritising!

2. Set ground rules well before stress hits peak levels

If you know – or even sense – that you’re about to hit a stressful or intense period, voice your needs and concerns ahead of time.

Some people want to “cross that bridge when they come to it” whereas others need some form of a game plan. Some don’t even want to talk about it because that way, it’s not real. Find out what you both need and meet in the middle. You won’t have all the answers, but you can flag the risks. 

It’s really hard when you do it for the first time and believe me, it’s still hard for me and hubby years into our marriage (and we are *cough* still young haha)

It’s scary and sometimes painful as you’re ripping the band-aid off of how you feel and put it out there to your partner and/or family. Not knowing how the heck it will land. And it can be hard hearing what they need and not really knowing the way forward. But you will find a way. 

You probably already know in your gut what you can deal with right now and what you can’t, so flag it now. 

“I need…” or “I am feeling…” or “I think we need to change…” is a great place to start. 

You don’t need to have the answers. And your partner probably won’t either.

In Agile Project Management, I learnt that the next step is often only revealed when you take the first one. And mitigating risks can sometimes be two widely different approaches of; “deal with it if it happens” or “can someone put an answer here please?”.  

Take the first step and frame a conversation to your partner/family that you don’t have the answers, but you want to start preparing for this phase. And maybe together, they can get an idea of what it looks like for your family. 

Keep in mind that what’s important to you, may not even be on someone else’s raider and they may not even see it as an issue. Listen to their response and evaluate how this could look moving forward. If you’re not coping, ask for help. And you will need to ask in a really clear way. 

 

 

3. Ditch the actions that simply stress you out (even if the other person finds them hilarious) 

If your partner/family are trying to be helpful with a specific behaviour, but it just starts stressing you out – call it. Ask them to stop. Find a new system. 

Address what’s not working and if it just needs to be ditched for now, ditched forever, or tweaked a bit. 

“You doing X is just adding to my stress right now…” or “Please don’t do X as it really stresses me out and I am simply, 100%, not coping with it”.

And it’s a two-way street with this one!

 

4. Be clear about WHY you need the bins emptied and create a  System (hint: it’s not you asking them every time)

You’re not asking for your partner to empty the bins because you can’t physically do it. It’s because you mentally cannot take on one more thing. And that’s okay. Explain why you need something done beyond having a clean home, help with the kids, grocery shopping, meal prep and so on. 

“Can you please do X when {set time frame or visual cue} as I mentally cannot do it right now.”

“I know it may sound minor and a bit OTT, but I need you to step it up right now.”

Set up and agree when a task needs to be done. Visual cues are great. Like when the recycling bin hits 80% full, empty it. And if you’re going to complain about emptying the bins every single week, then that’s going to be a looooong life. 

Agree to be a team in your home and check that you are doing the same for them. 

This is not a gendered issue, although I appreciate the current landscape. I have seen it in same-sex couples, single-parent households and even in the most supportive households. It happens in all households and every home needs to find what works for them. 

 

 

5. Accept everyone has different needs and standards

You may like a pristine home. Others couldn’t care less. Seriously, they don’t. I have seen it way too many times over the years. And that’s okay. We are all different.

Finding out and agreeing on what the middle ground should be is not easy. And it does take time to find what works for your household. I am not into overt praise for when people do basic chores, but I am into setting up systems that everyone pitches in to help out with.

Sit down with your crew and agree on what would work best for your home.

Then test it.

Revisit areas that don’t work and be open to making it easier or to compromise. 

Shutting the door is also an option.

 

 

6. Adjust and tweak as you go into new territory 

Partner taken on a new job? Lost a job? New bub? Financial stress? Workload doubled?

Life moves in phases and as we move through, you will need to tweak the systems and communication in your home.

Change is often incremental, so it can be hard to know why you are suddenly getting annoyed at each other. Stop and take a bird’s eye view. 

Have the hard conversations of what’s not working anymore. Couch it as a brainstorm and an open discussion. You may not find all the answers in a 20-minute chat, but you can start a dialogue that can be continued.

Yes, it’s hard. But you can do hard things. 

 

 

7. Own your own flaws and behaviours 

This one is hard. But if you know that you can easily just snap, know when to firmly say “Can we please talk about this later”. 

Stopping to gather your thoughts is hard, but oh so worth it.

Take a hard look at where you may not be showing up or crap that you are bringing to the table. We are not perfect, and once we can see where our flaws are, it makes it easier.

Choose to see the road together and not the brick wall of the other person’s flaws.

 

8. Flowers are cheaper than divorce

Harsh, but true.

Being nice during stressful periods ain’t easy. But having the little chats and sometimes the big, long chats along the way is far less painful than the Final Chat. 

Keep ripping the band-aid off and having the tough conversations. It’s about working together, not sweeping all the little things under the rug.

Easier said than done, right? Yes. But again, you can do hard things. 

So often we push away our loved ones during hard times when we should be rallying them together. 

Life is short, buy the flowers and play nice. Even when it’s hard. 

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