Relationships Stress in South Asian Culture: How it Looks and What Helps

Sponsored by The Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization, Stress Awareness Month is a national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society.

On behalf of this effort guest blogger, Tanvi B. Patel, LPC-S, has shared some of her expertise and tips with CHAI!

By Tanvi B. Patel, LPC-S

Have you ever found yourself completely anxious or stressed out because of a conversation or argument?  In general we find lots of information on work related stress, however relationship stress is just as, if not more prevalent.  First, let’s define relationship.  Does this mean a romantic partner only?  Absolutely not.  Some of the most intense interactions and stress triggers can be family members and close friends as well as romantic partners.

What does stress look like?:headache-triggers-woman-400x400

Common Symptoms of Stress

  • Feeling distracted

  • Unable to focus

  • Tension in muscles

  • Short Fuse (Snapping, short temper)

  • Digestive issues

  • Headaches or Migraines

  • Constant Worry

  • Numbness in body

  • Tingling in body

  • Grinding Teeth

  • Insomnia/Sleep Issues

  • Increased or Decreased Appetite

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Ulcers

What causes stress in relationships?  Generally it could be anything!  Specific examples related to South Asian cultural dynamics are:

  • Triggered emotions – Do you find yourself over-reacting? fight This is because the situation triggered a past memory or trauma during which the intense emotions occurred and were sort of imprinted into you as a reflexive reaction.

  • Entitlement – Do you feel as though you deserve something from a partner or loved one?  Examples include:  attention, love, affection, understanding, loyalty, etc  When you don’t get what you feel you are “owed” this can cause stress.

  • Betrayal – Of course blatant betrayal can cause stress, but also perceived betrayal can cause stress, for example your partner not agreeing with your opinion publicly, or your mother berating even your most genuine gestures.

  • Misunderstanding – In conflict/arguments, we are often too consumed in getting our point across and changing our partner/loved one’s mind to meet our needs.  It is more helpful to listen from an open positive and make a genuine effort to understand the other’s point of view.  Perceived slights can account for much conflict and conflict related stress.

  • Power differential – If someone has power over you, your opinions and needs may not be heard, acknowledged or met.  This can be very stressful, especially for adults but also for children.

Specifically in South Asian family/relationship dynamics, it’s important to recognize feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration and sadness, in the situations noted above, as all of these contribute to stress and they can be common emotions/reactions felt while interacting with family members or partners.

How do we deal with relationship stress?  Much like general stressors, coping skills are helpful to mitigate any symptoms we may feel:

Examples of Coping

  • Breathing Exercisesmeditation-helps-memory

  • Healthy Eating Habits

  • Hobbies

  • Physical Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Mindfulness Exercises

  • Talking with a trusted friend/family member

  • Psychotherapy/Counseling

  • Regular Massages

  • Medication

  • Regulated Sleeping Patterns

  • Holistic Remedies such as Kava teas, lavender oils, etc

And perhaps one of the most effective remedies is to work through the conflict that is causing your stress with the loved one.  In discussing with your partner/family member, remember to avoid criticism, blame, and defensiveness.  If you have tried everything and are still experiencing a high level of stress and especially if it is disrupting your ability to function on a day to day basis, please seek a mental health professional for assistance.

Visit for more information about National Stress Awareness Month!


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