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How to create a good work-life balance
Do you struggle with switching out of work mode at the end of the day? If you find yourself constantly working, thinking about work, or talking about work, it can have a negative impact – especially on your relationships with others. This is why creating a good work-life balance is an important and healthy thing to do. What is work-life balance?Simply put, work-life balance is the time you spend doing your job versus the time you spend doing things you enjoy, like hanging out with the people you love [1]. A healthy work-life balance comes down to setting clear boundaries between your work and the rest of your life. This means knowing when to work and when to relax. However, if you do not have clear boundaries, work can negatively affect your relationships with others. If you find yourself bringing work home to do outside of work hours, it may take or interrupt time you would spend with your partner, children, friends, or family. This may be necessary every now and then, but if it happens a lot, it can start to hurt the people you care about [2]. What can you do to improve your work-life balance? There are several things you can do to make sure your work-life balance is healthy, and not interfering with your workload or your personal relationships. Boost your motivation If you struggle with motivation while you’re at work, try taking a minute to write out your thoughts in a way that is helpful to you. Making a list or writing in a journal can help you define your goals and remember what is important in your life. This can help you feel more confident in making decisions and increase positive emotions [3]. If you are looking for focused exercises, try a SMART goal setting exercise or a defining values exercise. Reduce distractions Distractions during work hours can make it harder to obtain a good balance of work and life. An easy way to separate ‘work’ from ‘personal’ is to make sure you have a designated workspace [4]. This could be at your office, a quiet room in your home, or even your favourite café. If you aren’t able to create a designated space for yourself, try wearing noise-cancelling headphones to help yourself focus. Being able to control the environment you work in will allow you to limit your distractions [5]. When you enter that ‘work’ space, you can focus on getting your tasks done for the day. It also will help you transition from work to home when you leave it, giving you time to switch out of ‘work mode’ and relax. If you find it hard to transition out of work mode, try putting away your work devices at the end of the day so you aren’t tempted to check in. You can also go for a walk to help establish a sense of distance. This is especially helpful for remote workers! Establish boundaries With mobile phones, most of us seem to be available 24/7. Receiving texts or messages from friends and family during work hours can get in the way of completing tasks. Similarly, checking work emails or getting calls from your boss when you’re not at work can interrupt important downtime. If you feel your devices open up a door to distraction or ignored boundaries, consider leaving your device in another room or a drawer. This can be done during work hours or home time to help you focus on being present when (and where) you need to be. For those who use their personal devices for work, make use of filters and apps (such as Do Not Disturb) that will help limit your access to work notifications when you’re at home. Be patient with yourself Creating a good work-life balance takes practice. Make sure you try different ways to help create that balance in your life to find what works best for you. This might even involve asking your friends and family to follow similar ‘no devices’ rules to ensure you are all present together.By Helen Molloy References[1] Cambridge Dictionary. “Work-life balance, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/work-life-balance.” Accessed December 19, 2023. [2] Howard Kennedy. (2020). Relationship breakdown and the workplace. Available frrom: https://sites-howardkennedy.vuture.net/113/1332/landing-pages/relationship-breakdown-and-the-workplace-report.pdf [3] Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment : the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Journal of Continuing Professional Development, 11(5), 338–346. https://doi.org/10.1192/apt.11.5.338 [4] Allen, T. D., Merlo, K., Lawrence, R. C., Slutsky, J., & Gray, C. E. (2021). Boundary Management and Work‐Nonwork Balance While Working from Home. Applied Psychology, 70(1), 60–84. https://doi.org/10.1111/apps.12300 [5] Clark, S. C. (2000). Work/Family Border Theory: A New Theory of Work/Family Balance. Human Relations (New York), 53(6), 747–770. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726700536001
Article | work-life balance, stress, relationships
Separating better: a new app for separated parents
When you decide to separate from your partner or spouse, it can be a challenging to navigate, especially if you have children. To help equip you with the practical tools and skills you need to move forward, a new app has been released by OnePlusOne – the relationship experts behind Click. What is Separating better? Separating better is an app that uses videos and articles based on real life scenarios to offer solutions and advice for those on the co-parenting journey. The aim of the app is to equip you with skills to resolve arguments and improve communication between you and your ex-partner, which will build a healthier environment for your children. Separating better is now available to download free from app stores. Download for Apple Download for Android What does the app do? In situations where you and your ex-partner are disagreeing, your children are at risk of being caught in the middle. Separating better reduces this risk by providing a how-to guide for co-parenting, so you can always find a way through that puts your children first.   By engaging with the app content, you’ll learn skills that will help you create and maintain safe environments for your children to grow up. Separating better gives you complete access to professional, evidence-based content such as: Work it out videos based on everyday situations. These illustrate how things like shouting, blaming, and complaining can hurt children who feel caught in the middle between their parents before showing you how to improve each situation. Evidence-based articles that offer you expert advice and guidance on the many stages of separation and co-parenting. An emotional readiness quiz to help you reflect on where you are emotionally in your separation journey. You can also set personal goals to help you progress in your understanding of the app content. A parenting plan to allow you and your ex-partner to co-parent effectively. This plan helps you both lay out the parenting tasks you each need to be responsible for, taking into account the individual needs of your children. A budget planner to assist you in creating a budget for your household. This will allow you to get a better hold on your finances as your household bills and incomes change. A goals tracker to remind you where you want to make improvements, changes, or turnarounds in your own parenting journey. Why should I download this app? While not every family circumstance may be safe for children, evidence shows that children are happiest when there is clear communication between their parents – regardless of whether they are together or separated. If you are a parent who is separating from your partner and intending to co-parent, Separating better can help you improve your relationships with your ex and your children. By putting daily disagreements and situations into perspective, you’ll be able to see the impact of reactions like shouting, sulking, and blaming, and how you can work to make improvements every day. To find out more about Separating better, please visit: https://www.oneplusone.org.uk/separating-better
Article | separation, co-parenting
How to handle anxious thoughts on the move
Anxious thoughts can often take us by surprise. With a bit of reflection and planning, you can learn to understand these thoughts and address them in the moment. This can be especially helpful when you have to make quick decisions about how to act. What are anxious thoughts? Anxious thoughts centre around fear and unease. They can take many forms, including unpleasant images or a worried voice. Everyone experiences anxious thoughts at times. They can be a perfectly natural reaction to everyday events and challenges, like meeting a deadline or having a disagreement with a co-worker. Anxious thoughts occur because your mind is trying to keep you safe. They can help you to focus or take extra care when needed. However, if they become overwhelming or too frequent, they can negatively affect daily life and relationships [1, 2]. How do anxious thoughts affect relationships? When anxious thoughts become unhelpful, they can have an impact on how you operate in a relationship. On one hand, you might avoid your partner or shy away from intimacy. On the other, you might become more dependent on your partner, afraid of being abandoned. Taken to extremes, both of these responses can be problematic as it means one partner must work harder to keep the relationship going, ultimately increasing the likelihood of relationship breakdown [3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Thriving couples have a reciprocal relationship. They recognise the need to work on their relationship and themselves. During times of adversity, couples who pull together can actually make their relationship stronger. One way to do this is by sharing your anxious thoughts with your partner and looking for solutions together [8, 9].  When do anxious thoughts become unhelpful? Whenever these thoughts begin to disrupt your day-to-day life, it’s important to seek help. Therapy, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), can provide you with tools to help effectively treat anxiety. One of the metaphors ACT uses to describe how anxious thoughts can become unhelpful is Passengers on a Bus. Imagine you’re a bus driver who drives down the same old road, sticking to what you know instead of choosing to take any risky turns off your route. Your passengers give you biased advice, which represents your anxious thoughts. Any time you attempt to take a more exciting route, your passengers protest and demand you stay on the same old road. The metaphor suggests that in order to follow a different route, you must accept that your ‘passengers’ are a part of the bus but not in control, and continue on the route you want to take [5]. How can we address anxious thoughts in the moment? It can help to recognise anxious thoughts as they occur. An easy way to do this is by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can also guide you to the most helpful route. One way to practice mindfulness is an ACT skill called ‘Dropping Anchor’. There are three parts to this skill, which you can remember by using the acronym ‘ACE’ [11]. By using this skill, you can metaphorically drop anchor, acknowledging the anxious thoughts in your head before re-engaging with your life.   A – Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings What memories, sensations, and emotions are showing up for you right now? Remember to be curious and kind to yourself. C – Come back into your body Engage with your physical body. Press your feet into the floor, stretch out your neck or shoulders, or take a few deep breaths.  Whatever will help you reconnect with your body. E – Engage with what you were doing Remember where you are and what you were doing. Look around the room and notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Then bring your full attention to what you were doing. Try practising this for a few minutes three or four times when needed! You might want to write it down or take a screenshot to help you remember.By Helen Molloy  References [1] NHS. (2024). Managing anxiety. Better Health, every mind matters. Anxiety - Every Mind Matters - NHS (www.nhs.uk) [2] Harris, R. (2022). Chapter 8: Frightening images, Painful memories. The happiness trap : stop struggling, start living (New edition). Robinson. [5] Harris, R (2019). ACT Made Simple : An Easy-To-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, New Harbinger Publications. ProQuest Ebook Central. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/sheffield/detail.action?docID=5748522. [3] American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th). https://doi-org.sheffield.idm.oclc.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596 [4] Darcy, K. Davila, J. Beck, J. G. (2005). Is Social Anxiety Associated With Both Interpersonal Avoidance and Interpersonal Dependence? Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 29, (No. 2), pp. 171–186 DOI: 10.1007/s10608-005-3163-4 sjny108-cotr-NY00003163.dvi (oclc.org) [5] Porter, E., & Chambless, D. L. (2017). Social Anxiety and Social Support in Romantic Relationships. Behavior therapy, 48(3), 335–348. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2016.12.002 [6] Cantazaro, A. and Wei, M. (2010). Adult Attachment, Dependence, Self-Criticism, and Depressive Symptoms: A Test of a Mediational Model. Journal of Personality, 78: 1135-1162. https://doi-org.sheffield.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00645.x [7] Meek, VeryWellMind. (2022). How Anxiety Affects Relationships. Anxiety In Relationships: Signs, Effects, and Ways to Cope (verywellmind.covm) [8] Barlow. A, Ewing. J, Janssens. A & Blake. S. (2018). The Shakleton Relationships project. Shackelton_Relationships_Report_2018_8pp_v5.pdf (exeter.ac.uk) [9] OnePlusOne. (2021, 11. 24). Rowing Boat [Vimeo]. Rowing boat | OnePlusOne on Vimeo [10] Harris, Russ. ACT Made Simple : An Easy-To-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, New Harbinger Publications, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/sheffield/detail.action?docID=5748522. [11] Harris, R. (2022). Chapter 5: How to drop anchor. The happiness trap: stop struggling, start living (New edition). Robinson.
Article | anxiety, coping, mental health
Managing emotions and relationships with autism
Autistic people have the same need for connection and relationships as anyone else. However, if you or your partner are autistic, developing and maintaining your relationship might need different skills [1, 2].Autistic traits affect people in different ways. Some people might prefer routine. They might have differences in how they think about or do things, which can include a deep focus on a topic or interest. Autistic people are often active learners, are drawn to patterns and typically have an enhanced or reduced experience of taste, touch, sight, sound, or smell [3].As an autistic person, you might struggle to recognise someone's emotional state, but have very good empathy once you recognise it. You might also need to manage differences in sensory experience or mental processing. For example, using earplugs at a gig if the music is painfully loud, or taking a break in a calming environment to help process an exciting experience [2, 4]. How do autistic people regulate their emotions? Regulating emotions is key to building successful relationships. Emotions are closely tied to how we think and feel, and how we manage them can affect how we behave. Emotions go up and down throughout the day. Learning to effectively recognise and regulate them can help us act in line with our values within a relationship [5, 6].Autistic people often focus on balancing over- and under-stimulation to regulate their emotions by stimming. Stimming is stimulating your brain through a repetitive movement or vocalisation, such as hand flapping or humming. Everyone engages in stimming sometimes, but it is more common in autistic people, and may be more noticeable [7].During social interactions, autistic people may use a strategy called masking, to compensate for or hide autistic characteristics such as stimming. They might mask to avoid discrimination, smooth social interactions, or succeed in school or their job. Although these goals might be met, masking can have detrimental effects on relationships. It can cause a loss of identity, exhaustion, and mental health struggles, including suicidal thoughts [8].This may be because the purpose of masking is to avoid a threat: that of being excluded or lonely. Spending a lot of time avoiding threat can cause high levels of stress, possibly leading to burnout [9]. You can read more about stress and burnout in Stress, burnout and relationships.While stimming and masking can be useful in regulating emotions, and helpful for building relationships, they can also be harmful. But there are skills that you can use to help apply them effectively [10]. Mindful stimming and masking Mindfulness is noticing sensations inside and outside your body. It involves focusing and moving your attention around to explore things through your senses. Mindfulness can help you recognise and address your feelings and how others are feeling, which can improve your relationships and your wellbeing. It can help you become more aware of stimming or masking and give you more control over which stimming method to use depending on the situation. Ultimately, mindfulness can help you recognise and respond in the most helpful way when you are over- or under-stimulated [11, 12]. How to practice mindfulness The NHS recommends practicing mindfulness in your daily life: noticing sensations as you brush your teeth or the sounds of the world as you walk to work. You can also try activities that focus on mindfulness like yoga, tai chi, or meditation. Being led by someone in a practice can help you hone your skills in being mindful [13, 14, 15]. Ideas for practicing mindful stimming Below are some mindful stimming ideas. Although we have split them into calming and alerting, different things will suit different people.  It can be useful to try some and make your own list of things that suit you [16]. Calming activities Alerting activities   Sucking a lolly or sweet Sucking a yoghurt or thick milkshake through a straw Walking with a backpack on Press-ups or chair press-ups Chill-out time before a stressful activity Rearranging furniture Engaging in heavy manual tasks around the garden e.g. digging Swimming Wearing a heavy coat or blanket over the shoulders Creating a sensory corner to go to at any time you want Sitting, leaning, or rolling on a gym ball Playing with sensory toys Doing a five-minute meditation or a 10-minute yoga video Trying a progressive muscle relaxation exercise [17]   Chewing gum Drinking a hot or cold drink like a tea or a juice Squeezing a stress ball or fiddling with a fidget toy Knitting or crocheting Short bursts of fast movement like jogging, jumping, dancing Clapping activities Making faces Stamping your feet Eating spicy or crunchy food Smelling or tasting citrus Sucking sour sweets Being playful Applying lip balm Singing or playing an instrument Taking notes Drawing something  Top tip Try watching the Netflix show Atypical. It’s a coming-of-age story about an autistic person who leaves home for university, experiencing his first relationship and best friend. Relating to someone onscreen can be comforting and empowering. Learn more about autism and relationships see these free videos from the NHS. References If you want to know more about any more about the things we’ve mentioned in this article, we’ve included a list of references below: [1] Strunz, S. Schermuck, C. Ballerstein, S. Ahlers, C.J. Dziobek, I. Roepke, S. (2016). Romantic Relationships and Relationship Satisfaction Among Adults With Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73 (1), 113-125. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22319 [2] He, J.L., Williams, Z.J., Harris, A. et al. (2023) A working taxonomy for describing the sensory differences of autism. Molecular Autism 14, (15). https://doi-org.sheffield.idm.oclc.org/10.1186/s13229-022-00534-1 [3] National Autistic Society (2023). What is Autism? What is autism [4] Warrier, V., Toro, R., Chakrabarti, B. et al. (2018) Genome-wide analyses of self-reported empathy: correlations with autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia nervosa. Translational Psychiatry 8, 35. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-017-0082-6 [5] Guy-Evans, Simply Psychology. (2023, 12). Do You Know How To Manage Your Emotions And Why It Matters? Emotional Regulation: Learn Skills To Manage Your Emotions (simplypsychology.org) [6] Barlow. A, Ewing. J, Janssens. A & Blake. S. (2018). The Shakleton Relationships project. Shackelton_Relationships_Report_2018_8pp_v5.pdf (exeter.ac.uk) [7] Gal, E., Dyck, M. J., & Passmore, A. (2002). Sensory differences and stereotyped movements in children with autism. Behaviour Change, 19(4), 207-219. https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/sensory-differences-stereotyped-movements/docview/219349769/se-2 [8] Hull, L. Lai, M. Baron-Cohen, S. Allison, C. Smith P. Petrides, K. Mandy, W. (2020). Gender differences in self-reported camouflaging in autistic and nonautistic adults. Autism, Vol. 24(2) 352–363. Gender differences in self-reported camouflaging in autistic and non-autistic adults - Laura Hull, Meng-Chuan Lai, Simon Baron-Cohen, Carrie Allison, Paula Smith, KV Petrides, William Mandy, 2020 (sagepub.com) [9] Gilbert, P. (2009). Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15(3), 199-208. doi:10.1192/apt.bp.107.005264 [10] Frank, D.W. Dewitt, M. Hudgens-Haney, M. Scheaffer, D.J. Ball, B.H. Schwarz, N.F. Husseina, A.A. Smart, L.M. Sabatinelli, D. (2014). Emotion regulation: Quantitative meta-analysis of functional activation and deactivation. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 45, 202-211. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.06.010 [11] Kappen, G., Karremans, J.C., Burk, W.J. et al. (2018) On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance. Mindfulness 9, 1543–1556. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0902-7 On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance | Mindfulness (springer.com) [12] Mindfulness for Autism Jessie Poquérusse1 & Francesco Pagnini1,2 & Ellen J. Langer1 # Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 P 80 41252_2020_180_Article 1..8 (oclc.org) [13] Linehan, M. (2014) DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd). Guilford Press.   [14] Levin, M. Hayes, S. C. (2011). Mindfulness and Acceptance: The Perspective of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Acceptance and Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Understanding and Applying the New Therapies. John Wiley & Sons. [15] NHS. (2022, 09, 14). Mindfulness. NHS.UK. Mindfulness - NHS (www.nhs.uk) [16] Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust. (2023). Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder Group. https://www.shsc.nhs.uk/services/sheffield-adult-autism-and-neurodevelopmental-service-saans/understanding-autism-spectrum-disorder-group [17] Hamilton Health Sciences. (2017, 01, 19). How to reduce stress with progressive muscle relaxation. Youtube. We Know Why We Go | Bulk™ (youtube.com)
Article | autism, stress
Supporting your child’s mental health
As a parent, you won’t be able to control everything that affects your child's mental health, but the way you act can make a big difference [1]. In this article we'll look at some skills you can use to support your child’s mental health. Using these skills can help your child feel motivated to improve their self-esteem, develop their social skills and do well at school. It can also improve your relationship with your child, your partner and even your community [2].   Causes of mental illness in children  Low self-esteem, an unstable home life and educational difficulties [3] can all cause mental health issues in children. Since Covid-19, many more children are struggling to manage their feelings and need social and behavioural support [4]. More than half of children don't receive enough support for their mental health, and issues can then carry on into adulthood. Giving children the support they need early on helps them to grow into healthy and capable adults [3]. What you can do to help Be interested in their interests  At school, children are often rewarded with a good mark or a teacher's approval. This can help them to do well, but when a child’s efforts go unnoticed it can be stressful for them. Taking an interest in other areas of your child's life can help them connect to a sense of purpose within themselves [3] and motivate them to engage in school. Talk to them about their worries, interests, likes, and dislikes.  Top tip: Ask your child how their day was after school – allow them to lead the conversation and ask them questions about what they want to talk about from their day.  Build a good relationship with school  Children spend a lot of their time at school. Working with their teachers can help you and your child address any challenges they may have in and out of the classroom. This can help you to understand what support your child needs to be able to thrive [5].   Consistency is also important. If there is a lack of trust between teachers and parents, it can lead to your child getting mixed messages [6]. Building a trusting relationship with your child’s school can mean more consistent care and better mental health for your child.   Top tip: Keep in touch with your child’s school and be open with teachers about any concerns you might have. Help them understand their emotions  The school environment can feel overwhelming for children and may trigger strong emotions. Learning how to effectively handle these emotions can help build connections and friendships with other children and teachers.   Being more aware of their emotions can help build a child's self-esteem [7]. It can help them communicate better, feel included, and feel more capable of solving problems.  Five ways to support your child’s emotional awareness:   Pay attention to your child's emotions, so you can recognise when they are upset.  Recognise your child’s expression of emotion as a chance to learn. Encourage them to talk about what they are feeling, and guide them before emotions escalate.  Be empathic and understanding. Listen to what is upsetting your child and let them know you understand their feelings and why they are upset.    Help your child learn to label their emotions with words. This can broaden your child’s vocabulary and help to soothe them. You can lead by example with your own emotions.  Set limits when you are helping your child to solve problems or deal with upsetting situations. All feelings and wishes are acceptable. Not all actions and behaviours are acceptable. When a child misbehaves it is important to help them identify their feelings and explain why their behaviour was inappropriate [8].  Top tip: A fun way to introduce emotions to your children is to watch the Pixar film Inside Out. It follows a girl called Riley whose emotions are characters in her head that control her behaviour.   Work on your relationship with your partner  How you and your partner interact has a big impact on your children. Having regular heated arguments and leaving them unresolved can affect your child’s mental health and their behaviour at school [9]. If your child is affected by your arguing, they might struggle to concentrate, feel angry and act aggressively to others, or avoid friends and the things they normally do for fun [3]. Couples in happy relationships work at keeping a good connection by talking regularly and seeing things from each other's point of view [2]. Working at your relationship helps to provide a stable home environment, which can help your child thrive [3].  Top tip: For tips on how to improve your relationship with your partner or co-parent, try See it differently [10], a website from OnePlusOne with advice on how to communicate calmly and clearly, avoiding harmful arguments.  Seek help  When parents are thriving, their children are more confident, happy, and more able to concentrate at school [3]. Thriving families typically have a network to support them through good and tough times [2]. Having a network of people you trust can help relieve stress, solve problems, and add to your child’s social life. You can also seek support from the communities you are part of, such as work, school, faith groups, or LGBTQ+ groups.   Top tip: Lean on friends and family for support: ask if grandparents can take the children for a while or have an evening phone call with a good friend.  If you're worried about your child’s mental health, give some of these ideas a try and let us know how you get on.   By Helen Molloy References Below is a list of references if you want to learn more about anything we have talked about.  [1] Music (2010). Nurturing Natures: Attachment and Children's Emotional, Sociocultural and Brain Development (3rd). Routledge.  [2] Barlow. A, Ewing. J, Janssens. A & Blake. S. (2018). The Shakleton Relationships project. Microsoft Word - Shackleton Report Master Copy Final Draft 28-06-18 JE - updated v2.docx (exeter.ac.uk)  [3] High speed training, child mental health training v4, CPD certified (2023). Child Mental Health Training | Online Course & Certification (highspeedtraining.co.uk)  [4] National centre for educational statistics (2022). The Zones of Regulation. The Zones of Regulation | A Curriculum For Emotional Regulation  [5] Rachael Levy (2023) Home–school communication: what we have learned from the pandemic, Education 3-13, DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2023.2186972  [6] Ozmen, F., Akuzum, C., Zincirli, M., & Selcuk, G. (2016). The communication barriers between teachers and parents in primary schools. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 66, 26-46 http://dx.doi.org/10.14689/ejer.2016.66.2  [7] Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap (2nd). Robinson.  [8]  Gottman, J.M., Katz, L.F. & Hooven, C. (1996). Parental meta-emotion philosophy and the emotional life of families: Theoretical models and preliminary data. Journal of Family Psychology, 10(3), 243–268.  [9] OnePlusOne. (2023). RPC Package: Reducing parental conflict. LA (oneplusone.org.uk)  [10] OnePlusOne, Good Things Foundation. (2023). See it differently. See it differently 
Article | mental health, children
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 References 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.
Article | stress, mental health
Stress, burnout and relationships
Stress and burnout can affect your relationships and make it difficult to look after yourself. In this article we’ll look at some actions you can take to manage stress, and how you can use self-compassion to address early signs of burnout.  Understanding burnout  Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion caused by long-term stress [1, 2, 3]. Many things can come together to cause burnout. These could be:  Relationship troubles  Money worries  Problems at work  Childcare responsibilities  Lack of support or isolation  Poor physical health  Poor sleep  You can expect to experience some stress in life, but if you have too much for too long you might begin to experience negative symptoms. It is not caused by being too weak or being unable to handle life’s difficulties: it can happen to people who have lived through very tough situations [2].   Burnout can affect your emotional wellbeing: you might feel a loss of motivation, a negative outlook, and feelings of helplessness [3]. It can impact your relationships, both with yourself and with others [5].   How does burnout happen?  The three systems model, created by the psychologist Paul Gilbert [6], can be helpful for understanding burnout. You have three emotional systems: threat, drive and soothe. The threat system alerts you to danger, activating your ‘fight or flight’ response. The drive system motivates you to look for food, water, and safety. Your soothe system helps you to relax and feel safe.These systems work together to help keep us alive, each becoming more powerful over the others when needed. A balance of the three systems is a sign that your body is working how it should. Sometimes the systems become unbalanced, and threat and drive become more dominant. This can happen if you have a lot of demands on your time that are physically and mentally draining to you.   Burnout and relationships  People experiencing burnout often struggle to be kind to themselves. You might notice that you’re being judgemental of yourself, feeling disconnected, or constantly striving without a break. There may be good reasons why you are pushing yourself such as working hard at your job, or caring for other people [2, 7]. However, a lack of self-compassion can be a sign that you are stuck in drive mode and not connecting enough with soothe. This can lead to symptoms of burnout that tend to be harmful to building good relationships [8].   The irony is, if you do burn out, you will be too exhausted to care for other people or achieve your goals at work. It is better for everyone if you are able to take time to take care of yourself before burnout happens.  Show yourself kindness  Recognising your feelings is a way to show yourself compassion and regulate your emotions [9]. In his book The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris explains that pushing feelings away and ignoring them is like trying to hold an air-filled ball underwater: eventually your arm will get tired and the ball will surface. In fact, pushing feelings away can result in a rebound effect, and they can come back even harder. Taking a moment to notice your feelings can help you feel better if it is beyond your control to change anything for now.   Anchoring yourself  You can practice recognising your feelings by ‘dropping anchor’. This is a technique you could try to become more aware of what you are experiencing. To drop anchor you can use the acronym ‘ACE’ [5]:  A – Acknowledge your thoughts and feelingsNotice and name any thoughts, emotions, and sensations you are feeling in your body. C – Come back into your bodyConnect with your physical body in some way – push your feet firmly into the floor, slowly breathe, stretch your arms above your head. E – Engage with what you are doing  Get a sense of where you are – perhaps notice some things you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. Finish by refocusing your attention on what you are currently doing and engage with it.  Burnout is a difficult experience that can affect our relationships, but there are techniques available to help you manage and prevent it. Practising self-compassion and kindness can lead to many benefits, such as more energy and time for those we love. Try dropping anchor and let us know how you get on.  By Helen Molloy References [1] WHO, 2023 [2] BMJ, 2018 [3] Mental Health UK, 2023 [4] Hool, 2022 [5] Harris, 2008 [6] Gibson et al, 2021 [7] Rutter & Croston, 2023 [8] Barlow et al., 2018 [9] Linehan, 2015 
Article | relationships, stress
Friendship: the all-important glue
Support for couples has often been focused on managing disagreements rather than building positive aspects of the relationship, like friendship. However, it is increasingly recognised that in the long term, relationships falter through a lack of positivity rather than the presence of negativity [1]. When thinking about supporting relationships, working to strengthen the depth of friendship is ‘probably the treatment of choice’ [2]. Research suggests that friendship can be the foundation of a strong relationship with our partner. This foundation has three parts: Couples with strong friendships tend to be emotionally connected, knowing what is happening in their partner’s world and being interested in their life. They admire and show appreciation for each other. They respond positively to each other’s requests for attention, interest, or affection [3]. A strong foundation of friendship helps us to see the best in our partner. When we are feeling positive about our partner, it’s much easier to see any inevitable let-downs as being out of character or due to circumstance, making it easier to forgive and move on [4]. Research shows that married and cohabiting couples who see their partner as their ‘best friend’ are much more satisfied with their lives than those who name someone else as their closest friend [5]. Time to ourselves and a network of support from other friends and family are, of course, also vital to wellbeing. Friendship in the good times and the bad One study of couples interviewed separately over the first 15 years of their marriage [6] showed that people who described being great friends with their partner were in some of the most satisfying relationships. Many of the couples had been ‘friends first’ before becoming romantic partners [7]. As one man put it, “You need to have that basic friendship at the base of everything to build up from, and that always gives you something to go back to.” Couples’ experiences of the pandemic differed substantially depending on a number of factors. However, many couples commented that because they were such good friends, they had not found it difficult to be in lockdown together. Couples in thriving relationships ‘work hard’ to keep their relationship vibrant, but because they enjoy each other’s company, this is not ‘hard work’. In the good times and the bad, friendship is “The glue that sticks everything together.” Couples who are good friends look out and want the best for each other. They tackle issues as a team, which can strengthen their relationship further. This can even help when things go wrong – in the 15-year study of couples, one man said that he fell back on the “solid friendship” they had enjoyed to get him through the difficult months after finding out about his wife’s affair in the early years of their marriage. Without this basis of friendship, the relationship may not have survived. What happens if friendship isn’t strong? In the same study, concerns flagged by the researchers over the strength of the couple’s friendship at the first interview reliably predicted which couples would separate. Without a foundation of friendship, there seemed to be little to fight for when couples hit difficulties, and the relationships broke down [4]. When friendship is weak, the likely outcome is that people leave unhappy marriages [7]. That is why it’s essential to choose a partner we get on well with and then work hard to keep the relationship strong. How can you build your friendship as a couple? It is normal for relationships to go through peaks and troughs. It takes time and effort to keep things vibrant with a partner and there will be times when you feel closer than at others. Making time shows your partner they are your priority, especially when time is at a premium. Here are some things you can do to keep your relationship strong: Stay up to date and interested in what is happening in your partner’s life. Show appreciation for what your partner does for you or let them know the qualities you admire in them.  Respond positively and enthusiastically when your partner asks for your time, attention, or affection. Show that you care through small gestures. A cup of tea or a “How was your day?” can be more meaningful than occasional big gestures. Make time for your partner, and carve out time together.  Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader and a shoulder to cry on when things are tough. Tackle things as a team and be ‘in it together’. Make plans for small treats or time together to stay connected and have things to look forward to. Learn what makes your partner feel cherished. If it’s ‘being helpful’, then notice something that needs doing, like loading the dishwasher, and do it without being asked. Written by Dr Jan Ewing, University of Exeter References [1] Frank Fincham, Scott Stanley and Steven Beach, ‘Transformative Processes in Marriage: An Analysis of Emerging Trends’ (2007) 69 Journal of Marriage and Family 275[2] John Gottman and others, The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002)[3] John Gottman and Julie Gottman, ‘The Natural Principles of Love’ (2017) 9(3) Journal of Family Theory and Review 7[4] Anne Barlow and others The Shackleton Relationships Project: Report on Key Findings (University of Exeter, 2018)[5] Shawn Grover and John Helliwell, ‘How’s Life at Home? New Evidence on Marriage and the Set Point for Happiness’ (2017) 20(2) Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being 373[6] Anne Barlow and Jan Ewing, forthcoming[7] See: Danu Stinson,  Jessica Cameron and Lisa Hoplock, ‘The Friends-to-Lovers Pathway to Romance: Prevalent, Preferred, and Overlooked by Science’ (2022) 13(2)  Social Psychological and Personality Science 562[8] Denise Prevetti and Paul Amato ‘Why Stay Married? Rewards, Barriers and Marital Stability’ (2003) 65(3) Journal of Marriage and Family 561
Article | frienship
Interracial and cross-cultural relationships
Interracial relationships are still taboo in many families. This article offers some insight on how to manage difficult conversations with family and friends about being with the person who makes you happy, regardless of their race or ethnicity. These taboos may be connected to the long-standing effects of institutional racism or the lingering presence of white privilege, both of which can affect the way people view the world. Although years have passed since the Equality Act, many people from ethnic minorities still worry about being subject to racism and may choose partners from similar backgrounds as a result. If you are in a relationship with someone from a race or culture that is different from your own, you may already have experienced the negative impact of taboos, stereotypes, racism, and the negative attitudes of family members. We are here to remind you that you are not alone in your relationship, even though family and friends’ opinions can make you feel so. The following accounts are from real women who have been in interracial relationships and the emotions they went through when telling their parents or their partner’s parents. Sim (British Gujarati female, 25) talks about her relationship with Matt (white British male) “After telling my parents, I was overthinking whether it was the right decision to be together which may have indirectly affected our relationship at the time... His parents were unsure about our relationship at first as they played to the stereotypes of me being Indian and thought I was with him for fun, only to get an arranged marriage after” Zoe (White British female, 20) talks about her relationship with Elijah (black British male) “We had to keep our relationship secret from his dad for a while... when he found out he didn’t say much but made a comment about my partner saying, ‘he will learn from his mistakes’.” Selina (British Gujarati female, 21) talks about her relationship with Zayn (British Pakistani male) “They were disappointed and ashamed when they found out and my dad made the comment, ‘One thing we told you was no Pakistani boys’... I was frustrated that they only saw ethnicity rather than the person I was with [...] His parents reacted worse than mine, which bought up plans about the future... some cultural aspects didn’t align, and we realised that we had more differences than we thought” How to work through your issues Opinions of family and friends can have negative effects on a relationship. In a situation where your partner does not understand why their family’s comments are hurtful, you may feel you cannot speak to your partner, causing a lack of communication and distance between the two of you. It is easy to feel discouraged if your families are not supportive, but these issues can be worked through. Listen to your partner’s needs Something that seems small to you may be big for your partner. Don’t ignore or dismiss their partner’s feelings as this could push them away, or lead to feelings of bitterness. Listening to your partner and sharing issues about your families can take some of the load off for them and help with the healthy progress of your relationship. Compromise equally The desire to keep in touch with your own culture and embrace your partner’s culture is natural. However, compromise is essential to make sure something that you are passionate about is not being disregarded. Set boundaries with your partner about what aspects of culture and religion are important to you, so that your roots are not being forgotten. Relationships are a two-way thing; in an interracial relationship, cultures and religions from both sides must be taken into consideration and appreciated. Reason with your parents The reality is that a lot of parents won’t understand your relationship but dealing with this doesn’t have to be confrontational. Explain how you feel in a calm manner, using soft start-ups like, ‘I feel...’ or ‘It upsets me when you say...’. This can help them see how their words affect you, which they may not have considered before. Hearing their point of view is important too as this can be part of a discussion that dissolves stereotypes around your partner’s race and brings more normality to interracial relationships. Reassure each other It is easy to overthink what the future may bring for you and your partner when the odds seem against you now. However, living in the present and taking everything one step at a time is more manageable. This allows you both to slowly normalise your relationships in your families and focus on what is going well in the moment rather than what could go wrong in the future. What happened next? Let’s meet those couples again and hear how they moved forward from their parents’ reactions. As you’ll see, things don’t always work out, but there is certainly hope. If you’ve been in a similar situation, we’d like to hear from you in the comments below. Sim and Matt “I managed to win [his parents] over and they were welcoming and looked after me whilst I was away from home, which had a positive impact on our relationship. But I never felt we were going to progress as he was never close to my parents […] maybe if my parents were more supportive, we could have still been together now.” Zoe and Elijah “His dad is a strict Christian and doesn’t believe in sex before marriage, so our relationship was never discussed with him... that being said, my partner never spoke about his relationship with his dad and how our relationship may have affected it” Selina and Zayn “We reassured each other that we’d take our relationship one step at a time and focus on now instead of the future. My parents met him and apologised for judging on stereotypes, and we’ve compromised on things we didn’t initially agree with.” By Sereena Vaja References Brooks, J. E., Ly, L. M., & Brady, S. E. (2021). Race talk: How racial worldview impacts discussions in interracial relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(7), 2249–2267.https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075211011530
Article | culture, race, dating
Community posts
Lost and unsure what path to take
Basically, I have been in a long term relationship with my girlfriend for 5 years now, but I don't think she is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. The part I need help with, is that I have developed serious feelings for a friend of mine, and I am unsure if this is what caused me to think my current girlfriend isnt the one for me. Starting from the beginning, my current girlfriend is the first girlfriend ive had, first everything in fact. We met at work but she was still dating a guy at the time, but it was on the rocks, I didn't actually know she was with someone so I flirted with her and gave her lots of attention because I thought she was cute and we had some similar interests. One thing led to another, she left her boyfriend, and we started dating, it was rocky at first (first girlfriend and all that), but she came from a very abusive home and very abusive past relationships, so she was very clingy and really needed someone to take care of her. I think I was desperate to have a girlfriend so I promised to be there for her no matter what, and when her dad kicked her out 6 months into our relationship, I offered for her to live with me and here we are. Now don't get me wrong, I still have lots of love for her, and still cherish all the moments we shared together, we travelled together, we went to multiple family weddings together, we graduated university together, she became part of my family and they love her, but recently i've started to think that maybe we just aren't as compatible as I thought. We dont have many shared interests, I like watching and playing sports, she doesnt, she likes playing nerdy card games with her friends, I don't (no judgement im also a nerd), I like rap and metal music, she hates that music, the list goes on, and obviously common interests dont make or break a relationship, but when I think back on certain moments, and try to be objective, like certain things that maybe rubbed me the wrong way but I didn't say anything, I kind of see it now as behaviours and an attitude that I really dont like. On top of that, our love life has slowly started to descent into nothing, she used to jump me any chance she could as soon as we were home alone, and I would do the same, now any time I come onto her theres excuses or reasons or (apologies for the graphic imagery) she'll just use her hand. I already have pretty bad self esteem issues with not being attractive enough, so that stuff really hurts, and ive communicated that to her, but I've seen no change in months. The small stuff usually didnt bother me, sometimes she doesnt clean up after her self, or she'll take my stuff without asking and not put it back and now its lost. That stuff I usually could overlook, but recently it became bigger stuff, our 5 year anniversary just past a few days ago and she didn't remember, I came home after a 2 day trip and bought some cool clothes for her and her friend that was staying over while I was gone, and when I came home, she didn't say "hello, I missed you, how was the trip", no she said "wheres the clothes". There has been numerous instances of little things like that, and its just chipping away at me. About 6-7 months ago, I became close with a friend from work, at first I thought absolutely nothing of this girl, she seemed nice and polite, I didn't talk to her much, didn't find her drop dead gorgeous or anything like that (she is pretty not denying that), I would chat to her every now and again at work, just general conversation about how university was going for her etc etc. Eventually we chatted enough to the point where I started thinking "oh shes cool, we should be friends." Time goes on, lots more small talk, even helped give her advice with a relationship with another co-worker, it didn't work out but through it all we were much closer. Eventually she told me and my girlfriend that she was going to a big event that we were attending, so I said we should all hang out together, and we did and it was great, but my girlfriend ran off with her friends so it was just me and this girl from work together for the whole night. Nothing happened but again we just got closer and closer until one day I noticed I started to kind of miss talking to her or I would try swap my shifts around so I could work with her. At first I kept trying to tell myself its nothing shes just a friend and she gives you attention so you enjoy her company, its nothing more than that. Eventually I realised the feelings had progressed further than I could rationalise, so I started to panic and fell into a pretty deep depression. I felt so ashamed and guilty and disgusted with myself that I could think these thoughts, and tried to start pushing away the friend from work and would make myself not msg her, but it would never stick, I would always cave and obviously would still see her at work. After some more time, me and the girl from work would work together regularly, almost every shift, and again, we started to become closer and closer, and I started to realise we have a scary amount of common interests and experiences. I don't remember what started it, but one night we just started messaging each other after a shift, and ended up staying up to 5 am talking about everything and anything, and we have basically done that every night for weeks now, she has opened up some of the darkest parts of her life to me that she says she has told no one else before, and ive done the same to her. I have deep deep feelings for this girl now, but have never confessed them to her. I dont know for sure if she feels the same way for me, but she talks about me as if she could never imagine her life without me now (she actually said that in a msg). When she goes out drinking with her friends or to an event, i get terrified that shes going to meet someone or hook up with some guy, and it tears me apart. I am lost and unsure what path to take. As mentioned I have a lot of love for my current partner, she still loves me I think, but I just don't think I could happily spend my life with her, and this other girl, I don't know if she has the same feelings for me, I am worried that a confession of love will ruin our friendship, or alternatively, subtly pulling away from her and ending our friendship to focus on my current girlfriend could crush her and thats the last thing I want. I don't know if im willing to risk a long term relationship that might just need some work for something that is just a "what if", although that "what if" could be the best thing to ever happen to me. The hardest part of all of this is that both parties are mentally fragile women, both have told me they have had experiences with self harm and suicidal thoughts and both have serious abandonment issues, as do I, so I am terrified that either choice or path could lead to serious consequences. Please help me, any advice or guidance would be appreciated.
User article | emotional affair
Does it get better?
Does it get better? Our daughter is 18 months, and unless she's ill she's very happy/content. Her Dad has her every other weekend, and whenever she's back with me she's in an emotional state. Routine goes out the window completely. He says while she's in his care she's absolutely fine/happy/content, etc. but I'm so stressed/upset dealing with the aftermath. Is this normal? Will it get better? She's in a solid routine here. She's in nursery Mon-Fri, she sleeps 7pm-7:30am and naps 10am-12pm. I've got no idea what routine he has her in and I know I have no control over it, but when I get her back on the Sunday sometimes she hasn't been put down for a nap and is absolutely shattered, bedtime is a nightmare, and she cries/screams instead of just going to sleep like she usually does. She's also VERY emotional between picking her up and bedtime (everything makes her cry, she usually just wants to be cuddled) and nursery have commented that it takes awhile to get her back into 10am-12pm nap time etc. He's wanting to add Sunday night/Monday to his time and I'm honestly dreading it. I don't want to stop it or come between their time, but I'm the one who's dealing with everything outside of his weekends and this just adds to it. It's like he gets the 'fun' time with her and I'm left just doing/worrying about everything else. I'm not sure what's best at this point, I just want what's best for our daughter. Any advice if you're in this position or have been before?
User article | co-parenting, routines, toddler
My wife is still in contact with her ex
My wife and I have been together for 18 years and married for 5 years. We've had fights regarding her ex occasionally throughout the years. She is still in contact with her ex, which bothers me a lot. In the first few years of the relationship, she kept sending him messages and flirting with him. I found out and told her it was not right. She told me she would stop doing it. We were young. I didn't know how to deal with it and honestly I didn't care or love her as much at that time. She told me she had very happy but also bad memories of her ex, which sometimes still ache her heart when thinking about it. She said she wanted to let go of the memories. After we got married, I asked her if she could stop contacting her ex. She refused and said they were just friends and did nothing wrong. They grew up together and he understands her so well - she doesn't want to lose a good friend. She thinks that I am too sensitive and there is really no need to start a fight because of her ex. Plus she said she married me because I didn't mind she is still friends with her ex and I accepted her past. Recently, I found out that she has been using her ex’s name as her password for a bank account. She said it’s easier for her to remember it. We had a big fight again. I’m so tired of this already. I don’t know how to resolve the problem. I feel that my wife is not 100% loyal to me. She said she doesn’t want to forget the memories of him. Could anyone help me? What should I do or how can I change my mindset of not being so sensitive?
User article | marriage, ex-partner, trust