Stress is not a new term in our dictionary. We all have a basic understanding of what it means to be stressed, which is why it is frustrating that even with an ocean of definitions and coping guides we find ourselves struggling with it.

“Stress is a normal response of your physical and psychological systems when you are unable to cope with life changes, pressures, and challenges.”

Although comforting, this definition of stress does not help you understand how to cope with it. When you try to understand stress in the context of family dynamics the following definition might make more sense.

“Stress is how we react when we feel overwhelmed by pressure or when we feel threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don’t feel we can manage or control.”

Our families ultimately serve the purpose of nurturing individuals in a safe and caring environment which is exactly why we are often stumped when the safe and caring environment becomes a source of threat and pressure.

According to the Contemporary Family Stress Theory (McCubbin and Patterson, 1982), Family stress occurs when a family is unable to cope with change and adapts a faulty line of defense while trying to deal with it. Family stress is elevated as a result of the following factors:

1. Unresolved stressors in multiple domains

2. Failure in acquiring new resources

3. Lack of openness in modifying their perspectives

4. Active engagement in unhealthy coping mechanisms

Family therapy has proven to be an effective approach for dealing with core issues that lead to family stress. It is a structured form of psychotherapy that seeks to reduce distress and conflict by improving the systems of interaction between family members. It involves restructuring maladaptive interaction styles to strengthen the family’s problem-solving behavior.

Individual therapy has also proven to be effective in helping individuals learn coping skills such as emotional regulation, boundary setting, and resilience to effectively respond to stressful situations.

Overall it may be said that family stress is a dynamic process of adjustment. It is important to acknowledge your limitations as a single individual, in resolving the tension in the family. Until the members of the family take initiative to accept and adapt, we can learn how to prioritize patience and self-care to help us ride the storm out.

Importance of Professional Counseling: A friend or family member may listen to you, but they aren’t professionally, technically qualified or experienced to offer you professional advice. If you wish you can contact us at MindTribe to receive help from our team of expert psychologists.


MindTribe Founder Dr. Prerna Kohli, India’s eminent psychologist, established the company to leverage the strength of the online to make counseling affordable and accessible to everyone. MindTribe provides counseling, workshops, support groups, forums, and eLearning.

About the Author.

Shraddha Jagtap is a psychologist at You can learn more about her by clicking here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of, the Founders, or management team.

Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.


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