Chances are good there’s someone in your life who gets under your skin. And not in a good way. Maybe you have a family member who manipulates and takes advantage of you. Or maybe your boss only cares about short-term, bottom-line results when your job requires a long-term effort. Or perhaps you have a passive-aggressive friend who goes behind your back, undermining you with your friends.

There’s always someone. If you are allergic to conflict you may find it hard to manage challenging people. So you put your head down and do the best you can. And then, over time, your frustration festers into full-blown toxic emotion. Sooner or later your anger and rage put your body into high alert mode, which is physically stressful.

Being super alert is great when you’re trying to out-run a saber tooth tiger, but it’s not good to have that adrenaline pumping every time you encounter that difficult person. You might want to consider reducing your contact with him, but that’s not always possible. So what can you do when you hate conflict but you’re constantly stressed?

Break The Cycle Of Stressful Relationships Nancy'S Counseling Corner

Studio Shot Of Young Couple Back To Back Tied With A Rope

Take a deep breath. Really. Bring some mindfulness to your relationship. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga can help you manage those toxic emotions. And you can always take a time-out if you’re feeling really stressed. Excuse yourself and find a quiet place where you can have a time out. Breathe deeply for a few minutes to calm down. Or maybe take a walk to clear you head.

Take a look at yourself. Sure, those other guys are complete jerks. But a little self-refection is called for, too. That doesn’t mean self-flagellation. It means understanding yourself enough to manage your emotions. Is there a trigger that causes you to feel threatened, fearful or out of control? If you know what it is that will likely upset you, you can practice how you’ll respond. Forewarned is forearmed. Be prepared to stay calm when someone presses your panic button.

Take a tip from your friends. Everyone needs friends, and when you have plenty of them, one or two toxic relationships are less important in the scheme of things. Good friends will also support you when stress is getting you down. Of course it goes both ways. You need to support them as well. If you want to broaden your circle of friends, begin by being empathetic. Ask someone you’d like to know better what he thinks or feels about a situation. Ask yourself what you can do to make him feel better about you and the situation you’re in. It never hurts to have a friend.

Remember everyone has problems, even the people who torment you. While you can’t change them, you can change the way you respond to them. Start by taking a deep breath.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: