Stress, Sleep, and Mood
Coping with Stress
Couple Communication


Do you know anyone who doesn’t seem stressed? Most people we know who seem unstressed are actually not. Instead, they have the tools to be aware of the stressors and stress, to understand how they work, and to compensate for or counteract them. If you are like those of us who are not stress-free, you can benefit from some simple tests and strategies that I can share with you.

You don’t have to be a cop or firefighter or soldier to encounter stressful situations at work. You don’t even have to have a stressful job. You don’t even have to have a job. In fact, for some, the lack of a job can be a source of stress.

Stress, Sleep, and Mood

Sleep - Stress - Mood Venn diagram

Stress often leads to erratic sleep patterns, undermining energy and mood, compounding the stress.

In most of our lives stress, sleep, and mood are so interconnected that it can be hard to see where one stops and another begins, unless we can step back and see them more clearly, which may take help from a trained and experienced professional.

Not talking about issues with family members may seem the best way to protect them. Yet stress will find a way out in other–often harmful–forms. Excessive drinking, withdrawing to TV or video games, irritability, and angry outbursts are ways stress shows up in daily life.

Chronic stress leads to depression, anxiety, poor memory and thinking. It can cause family conflicts, poor job performance, weakened people skills, unhealthy relationships.

Coping with Stress

What can you do to prevent this cycle? Seek help now, no matter what stage you feel yourself in. Learning how your actions may be increasing stress, decreasing sleep, and leading to depression can lead to small daily changes that add up to long-term solutions.

Daily exercise has been shown to relieve stress, enhance mood, and promote better sleep. Develop healthy sleep habits. For example, remember the bed is for two things: –sleep and sex. If you have been in bed trying to sleep longer than 30 minutes and haven’’t gone to sleep, get out of bed and go to another room that is quiet and relaxing.

Have you ever had that feeling of a “weight” being lifted after you finally talked about something you’ve been avoiding? Your mood is shaped by how you think about and make sense of the events and stressors in your life.

For some other basic strategies, see the “Stress, Sleep, and Mood” section under First Responders.

If you find yourself in a negative “thought rut,” remember the “First Rule of Holes: when you’’re in one, stop digging.” If what you are doing with your kids, your spouse or partner, your parents, your boss isn’’t working, more of the same isn’’t going to work better. The best way out of a hole is to reach out for a little help from a professional who isn’t living in your skin–one who isn’t going to give you “advice” and is going to help you learn new, healthy ways to see and manage your life.

Couple Communication

If the stressors in your life have led to a breakdown in communication with your spouse or partner, seek help early, before you are too emotionally disconnected. Research has shown that couples headed for divorce are five times more negative in their interactions with one another than stable couples.

That same research shows that four communication styles are predictive of divorce: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. If you see yourself and your spouse or partner in any of these patterns, seek help. Together you can learn how to have positive and respectful conversations about the issues that come up in every relationship.

As a San Francisco Police Department Specialty Provider and Military and Family Life Counselor, I am experienced in helping those confronting stress, and I have seen individuals and couples turn their lives and relationships around, even after decades of entrenched problems. Let me help you have the life and relationships you want and deserve.