How Unresolved Conflict Impacts Your Mental Health
We all experience anxiety, bouts of depression, stress and insomnia. These are normal emotional responses to what life throws at us and the things we can’t control.
They become a mental health concern when they take over our life and lead to an inability to cope with everyday tasks. It can lead to avoidance of situations that cause us anxiety and that can limit how we live our lives.
This is a very simplistic explanation and you don’t truly understand these conditions until you have been through them. Anxiety prevents you from thinking about anything other than what will harm you. It exhausts you, your body reacts with a racing pulse, a feeling of breathlessness and in my case, I would wake up with panic attacks in the early morning. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t eat and everything that I used to love had no impact on me whatsoever. If I wasn’t exhausted through fear, I was numb. My anxiety was related to a bereavement, but many people can’t identify the cause.
How Conflict Affects Mental Health
Conflict can often result in anxiety, depression, stress or insomnia for the following reasons:
- It can be very expensive, especially if lawyers are involved. This is especially hard to deal with if you are already in financial difficulties.
- The result can sometimes be unpredictable. You can never predict what a judge will decide and it’s often not clear whether a negotiated settlement is desired by the other side.
- Sometimes parties are unreasonable and will not change their position, especially when dealing with a narcissist.
- Conflict is scary. You’ll know this if you have faced a violent party or somebody who acts or speaks aggressively.
- It makes you feel vulnerable, especially if you are in conflict with a spouse, a business partner or somebody who you once trusted.
- It can change how you view the world. You can experience feelings of loss relating to a relationship, a conflict can change how you view the future and it can also distort your view of the past. This can be very difficult to accept.
One of the problems I see with court proceedings is that it escalates costs, it takes away the parties’ power to decide the outcome as the solutions only relate to money and there is always an element of uncertainty. If what you really want is a dialogue that results in an apology, a judge cannot order that, even if this is what you need to move on emotionally.
What Options Do I have?
No matter what the conflict is, you always have options. It’s important to know that when you are feeling anxious or stressed out. The trouble is, you don’t always know what they are. Here are a few to help you:
- Get free advice from online charities. I’ve listed a few below that are always helpful in times of conflict.
- Consider mediation. A mediator will spend a day with the parties and find out what solutions will suit you both. They will help coach you through the conflict and the negotiation putting some of the control back into your hands. It’s cheaper and quicker than court proceedings.
- Talk to a friend you trust. It may seem obvious, but in times of crisis, I have a very practical friend who I talk things through with when I am not sure what to do about a problem.
- Take things one step at a time. A conflict has different stages that you have to deal with one step at a time. Looking too far ahead too early will lead to anxiety, stress, insomnia or depression. By looking at it this way, you can begin to focus your strategy.
- Remember that you have emotional options. Even if that seems hard to imagine when you are suffering from incapacitating anxiety or when you are exhausted from insomnia.
- You also have options as to how you communicate. Don’t feel that you have to meet face to face or speak over the telephone. If the other person is aggressive or threatening, this is not the best way to communicate. Consider sending your written feelings and views to the other person.
- Conflict is normal. Everyone goes through it and you can learn from it.
- Get some distance if you think it will help you. That might take the form of a yoga class, a walk in the park or taking a few deep breaths. This is more about headspace than physical distance but I would strongly advise this to anyone feeling like they cannot cope with conflict.
It’s not an easy place but by resolving conflict constructively and reformulating how you view it, you may just be half way there to finding emotional and mental balance. In that journey, I wish you well.
Links to Organisations Who Can Help
The Loss Foundation for help with grief – they get a special mention for just being brilliant in times of crisis.