Defusing Conflict for a Healthier LifeStyle

SailboatDefusing Conflict at Home or Office

What I hear most about not staying on a prescribed meal plan is this:  “I was just too stressed after work and blew my diet by stopping by The Big Burgers.”  “My spouse and I had a big fight.”  “The kids were sick.”  “The dog was sick.”  “I was sick.”  “My job is getting me down.”  “My boss is a jerk.”  You can fill in with most any stress-related struggle.  However, how can you stop the health-eroding effects of conflict and improve your relationships and lifestyle?

 Basically, when you experience conflict with the kids, your boss, co-worker, or spouse, your initial feelings are anger and frustration.  Physiological changes are happening inside your body as well as the emotional turmoil. 

 Our bodies go into an automatic response to prepare for battle and the “main culprit is adrenaline,” states Andra Medea, author of Conflict Unraveled:  Fixing Problems at Work and in Families.  She goes on to write, “Your body cannot distinguish from being yelled at by a boss or being snarled at by a tiger.”  I am sure most people understand that analogy.

Avoiding Conflict

Avoiding conflict is not the best answer in handling relationships.  For one, it puts women four times at risk for heart attacks and second, it is a predictor for divorce.  “Giving in” puts you in emotional turmoil.  A healthy option is to assert yourself and express your point of view.  However, you must learn to find the right way to fight fairly whether in an office or home dispute.  It is OK to have a difference of opinion as long as you work on conflict resolution.  The following steps will help reduce the impact on your health and eating habits.

Reducing The Impact On Your Health

  1. Sit Down.  Take a few deep breaths which starts defusing the situation and puts you back in control.  Ask the other person to do the same.  If this does not work, use some of the suggestions at the end of the article.*
  2. Play Detective.  Try and find out what the other person feels or how he/she is thinking by asking questions.  For example, you can say, “Did I miss something?” or “I am confused, what just happened?”  At this point, you are basically gathering information and not making assumptions or judgments.  The questions might put a different light on the conflict and progress can be made on a resolution.
  3. Show You Are Listening.  After you have gathered the information, then summarize what you heard.  You will show that you are truly listening and give the person a chance to hear what was said.  This should give you the opportunity to share your perspective.
  4. Make An Agreement.  The basic goal of any struggle is not to win but agree on a plan of action so that the mistake which caused the conflict is not made again.  If the plan is mutually agreed upon, both parties will comply with the compromise.

*Adrenaline Overload

When you are in conflict, adrenaline is triggered.  This overload of adrenaline is known as “flooding.”  Some of the following activities will help you lower your adrenaline and manage your stress level.

  • Time and Space.  When flooding occurs, you feel closed in.  Taking a quick walk even if just down the hall and this will help clear your mind.
  • Fresh Air.  Open a window or just step outside for a few moments.  Again, the closed in feeling will disappear.
  • Gardening.  There is something healing about digging in the dirt.  Plus you are using large muscle groups which helps in burning the adrenaline.
  • Walk your dog.  Take your dog for a walk.  It will be good for you and for your dog.  If you don’t have a dog, borrow one and help your neighbor. 

From Laurie Puhn, “Conflict is not only inevitable, it’s good.  It means that two people have different perspectives.”

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