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Supporting a partner with chronic stress

If your partner is dealing with chronic stress, there are things you can do to support them. While you can’t solve all their problems, pulling together during a stressful time can help make your relationship stronger. In this article we discuss how to recognise signs of chronic stress in your partner and what you can do to help [1].

What is chronic stress?

Stress is your body’s response to threat – you may have heard the term ‘fight or flight’ which is when your body gives you a boost of adrenalin to tackle what’s in front of you [2]. Experiencing some stress is a normal part of life, and it can even be good for you – stress helps your body to adapt and grow stronger. However, if the fight or flight reaction kicks in too often, it can result in long-term overwhelming stress, known as chronic stress [3].

If a loved one or partner is experiencing chronic stress it can be difficult and distressing for both of you. Sometimes chronic stress can’t be avoided due to circumstances beyond your control, such as illness or money worries. But it can still help to have the support of a partner [1].

Signs of chronic stress

There are many signs of chronic stress, and they will differ for different people [2]. Recognising the signs is the first step to helping support your partner. They might include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by work.
  • Having little or no time for family.
  • Frequently feeling irritable, depressed, or anxious.
  • Being unreasonable.
  • Struggling with relationships.
  • Little or no time for self-care [2, 4].


How to support your partner

There are many ways you can help support your partner:

Be actively caring

Show you care with thoughtful acts that will mean something to your partner. You could make the dinner or take the kids out for the day to give your partner some alone time. Not everyone finds the same things meaningful, so think about what your partner would want. Those little gestures can really add up [5].

Carve out time to talk

Talk to your partner – not just about the big issues, but also about the smaller everyday things. While your instinct might be to try and find practical solutions, someone who is chronically stressed might just want to talk. Focus on addressing one thing at a time, and take the time to listen to your partner [6].

Take care of your own needs

It’s important to look after yourself as well as your relationship. Taking time for your own interests and hobbies as well as those you do with your partner can be helpful to you both. Think about what you enjoy doing that you find enjoyable and relaxing. It could be anything from playing football with your mates to taking a long hot bath. Whatever it is, intentionally make time for it in your week [1].

Seek help

Ask your friends and family for help. Having a close supportive network can help relieve pressure when dealing with stress. You could also seek support from the communities you belong to, such as work, school, faith, or LGBTQ+ groups. It is especially important to seek help if both of you are struggling with your mental health.

Relationships are complex and can be difficult to navigate. That is why Click exists – to investigate relationships and share what we find with you! The suggestions in this article come from a range of evidence-based sources. Give them a go and let us know how you get on.

If you think you are suffering from chronic stress yourself and want to understand more about it, see our article on burnout.

By Helen Molloy


Here is a list of references for you to refer to if you want to learn more about anything we have touched on:

[1] Barlow, Ewing, Janssens & Blake (2018) The Shakleton Relationships Project Summary Report. University of Exeter.

[2] OnePlusOne (2020) Stress. NHS Foundation trust.

[3] American Psychological Association (2023) Stress effects on the body.

[4] Mental Health UK (2020) Burnout.

[5] Highet, Thompson & King (2006) The Experience of Living with a Person with an eating disorder: The Impact on the Carers.

[6] Walden University (2023) How Stress Impacts Decision Making.

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