Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MCFARLAND: Good health matters in relationships too

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 1/22/2014

You might be like millions of Americans who resolved to become healthier in 2014.

Health is not only the absence of illness, but is multi-dimensional, including wellness in the emotional, social, physical and spiritual domains. A person’s mental and physical health can impact the family and couple relationships for better or for worse. Staying as healthy as possible and managing stress effectively are important components of strengthening a couple relationship and consequently supporting the stability of families.

You might be like millions of Americans who resolved to become healthier in 2014.

Health is not only the absence of illness, but is multi-dimensional, including wellness in the emotional, social, physical and spiritual domains. A person’s mental and physical health can impact the family and couple relationships for better or for worse. Staying as healthy as possible and managing stress effectively are important components of strengthening a couple relationship and consequently supporting the stability of families.

When individuals attend to their own health, the couple unit benefits as well. Wellness entails balance across the domains. Research has shown that wellness in these areas is linked to positive outcomes for individuals and couples.

Emotional health involves being aware of and able to express and manage one’s own feelings and connect to the feelings of others. The social domain includes the quality of relationships with others, inside and outside the family circle. This area also includes connection to the larger community. The physical domain is the condition of the body intertwined with lifestyle habits and prevention/maintenance practices. Finally, the hub of the spiritual domain has been defined as a sense of meaning and constancy in life, which often includes connection to some higher purpose or power and the identification of important values and standards to guide everyday life.

Couples can support each other in maintaining health in each of these domains in a number of different ways, either individually or as a couple. Here are some general ideas:

• Emotional: When individuals and couples are busy with work and family life, emotional wellness often is compromised, and rarely given attention until a crisis emerges. At the most basic level, couples can set aside time for identifying emotions and create an environment within the relationship that is supportive of expressing them. Stress management techniques are important for effectively dealing with emotions, especially strong or negative ones.

• Social: When life gets busy, it’s tempting to let the quality of social relationships diminish. Relationship maintenance strategies do not have to always be time- or energy-intensive or expensive. Couples can use everyday opportunities such as planned shared meals that encourage open and supportive conversations. Some time spent on connecting to the larger community and giving of oneself, can be healthful as well. But it is important to prevent social involvements from becoming overly demanding.

• Physical: Exercise is a well-known path to health and one that most people don’t engage in on a regular basis. Couples who exercise together are more likely to keep doing it. Healthful eating is also a key to keeping physically fit. It is more likely to be achieved when partners work together to identify one or two small changes and stick to them.

• Spiritual: Spirituality can mean different things to different people. Couples can explore what spirituality means to them and what helps them release control to escape their daily stress. Having some regular time set aside to address spiritual health can reduce stress for individuals and improve couple relationships.

Building multi-dimensional health is important for individuals, but also can help couple relationships become and remain strong and resilient. The fast pace of modern life can make attending to wellness very difficult at times. So it’s important to schedule and plan for health in all four domains that promotes wellbeing for individuals and stability for couples and families.

 

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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