Conflict Resolution and Optimized Health
You hit snooze this morning, you end up stuck in bad traffic, and you get to the office with yesterday’s skirmish with a co-worker on your mind. This could be one of the causes of excessive stress, and it can do serious damage to your body. Relationships are all around us, and if you are feeling stressed out due to worrying about conflict, practicing conflict resolution strategies could be an important way to help your body stay healthy.
Instigating proper conflict resolution methods in the workplace, at home, and with your peers, could have a tremendous impact on your health. Even if you have great interpersonal communication skills, dealing more effectively with disagreement could improve many areas of your life.
Conflict usually arises when you have a different opinion than someone else, or you misinterpret their intentions or words. Moreover, without respect, conflict can reach an unpleasant peak. Dealing with conflict often leaves you feeling brooding, anxious, or irritable. Your stress levels are elevated, your blood pressure increases, and over time you become at increased risk for developing health imbalances.
While stress in and of itself is a vital response for your survival, having day in and day out stress due to work or family responsibilities is unhealthy. Going into stress mode due to difficult driving condition, for example, is a natural and healthy response. Your body gradually calms down within a few hours. On the other hand, when your body faces prolonged and chronic stress, it could lead to the development of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and many other health consequences.
This is why it’s crucial that you master conflict resolution – to keep your relationship conflict manageable, keep your stress levels low, and prevent further health conditions from developing.
If you don’t resolve a problem, and simply internalize your discontent or brush it off, you’re not solving the issue in any way. Instead, it persists or gets even worse. You could improve your relationships, whether with your spouse, parents, children, friends, or co-workers, momentously if you master conflict resolution methods.
The Effect of Emotions on Your Health
You might wonder how your emotions could have any connection with your physical or mental well-being. As a matter of fact, emotions play a vital role in your physical health, and ongoing anger, resentment, hatred, or stress could deplete your body.
In the book, Deadly Emotions, Dr. Don Colbert discusses how a large number of health conditions are caused by emotional and physical stress. He states, “The perpetual release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol can sear the body in a way that is similar to acid searing metal.” This is not an extreme example. There is a direct correlation between internal, emotional stress and damage to your health over time.
When you’re experiencing emotional or physical stress constantly, your body begins to face consequences. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, are going through a tough divorce, or simply feel restless at work, the stress takes a toll on your health. While stress is a natural mechanism in your body, chronic stress could lead to various health conditions. Since your body naturally releases hormones under stress, your adrenal glands continuously pump hormones to bring your body back to harmony. With elevated stress, your adrenal glands are overworked, and this leads to disruption of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system. Once your body enters that stage, it could lead to the development of AFS. With that, you may begin to experience symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, unexplained hair loss, inability to lose weight, lack of sexual drive, difficulty completing everyday tasks, hypothyroidism, or even depression.
This is why effective conflict resolution skills are vital for both emotional relief and preventing health problems.
Conflict Resolution and AFS
If you’ve ever felt your stomach tightening and your heart pulse increasing as you were arguing with your spouse, you’ve experienced the natural mechanism of emotional stress. Immediately, your body physiologically reacts to the stress, perceiving it as a threat to survival.
Your digestive system, reproductive system, and many other bodily systems do not function properly as your body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. Your heart begins to race, you feel like you have knots in your stomach, and you may lay awake at night as the conflict prolongs.
Your adrenal glands are glands above your kidneys that produce hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When you’re under stress, your adrenal glands pump hormones to combat the elevated stress hormones circulating in your bloodstream. If stress becomes excessive and prolonged, you overwork your body internally and cause it to deplete itself of vital energy and nutrients.
Successful Conflict Resolution Approaches
Reaching successful conflict resolution requires effective communication skills, proper listening, and an agreeable solution. Simply brushing something off that disturbs you will only bandage the issue, leaving you with an upsurge of resentment and anger internally. Instead, tackle the root cause of the issue, and communicate your concerns respectfully with the intention of finding a solution rather than simply trying to ‘win’ an argument. These tips could play a significant role in hastening conflict resolution and reaching an agreement.
Aim to be a listening ear, not a loud mouth.
We often don’t listen to understand, but simply listen to respond. Focus on staying cool, and listening to your co-worker, spouse, or peer, instead of cutting off their sentences or getting mad at every word they say. When you listen completely and open-mindedly, you are able to see the disagreement from the other person’s perspective. You can then share your thoughts and work together to find a solution.
Advance your communication skills.
You might not have been required to take a communications class to graduate from university, but working on this area could help your relationships, and your mental and physical well-being. There are countless courses online and many excellent books on improving your interpersonal communication skills. With better communication skills, you could then better express your feelings and manage difficult social situations accordingly.
Focus on the problem.
Arguments are inevitable in marriages. Recall the last time you had a disagreement with your spouse. Did the argument range from one issue to another, bringing in issues from years past and making the argument even more difficult to untangle? Did you take everything they said personally or forget the very reason you began to argue? Often in arguments, it can be important to focus on one issue at a time, limiting your discussion to whatever is currently the problem, and letting the past stay in the past.
Gather accurate information.
In order to reach an agreement, it’s important that you gather accurate information. Explain your views as accurately as possible, using concrete and specific details, and leaving out unnecessary emotional blame and judgment. Hear the other person’s side as well, giving them time and space to share accurately why they believe what they do. Moreover, be sure that you don’t misinterpret your opponent’s intentions or words, as this could worsen the conflict. Share your reasonings, and view your opponent as a team member, not an enemy. Shift your mindset into solving the problem, not winning the argument. Try to find a win-win solution if possible.
Your emotional and mental health has a much bigger effect on your physical health than you know. Take care of your emotional baggage, forgive those who’ve wronged you, and learn to understand, before trying to be understood. Put effort in enhancing your communication skills, as well as practicing methods of conflict resolution. Then, take a moment and observe as your physical health begins to improve, your nights are less restless, and your stress melts away.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Can conflict resolution really help your body?
Inevitably, you will have some sort of disagreement with most people you know. It often leaves you with restless sleep, elevated stress, or in a bad mood. Developing conflict resolution skills could improve these relationships, reduce this mental anguish, and play a role in enhancing your physical and mental well-being.