Murphy’s Love: Dealing with Big Ticket Stressors

Dear Stacy,

I am starting to realize that I am not handling things in my relationship the way I used to. I have had a lot of life changes in the last month — I moved and started a new job with a significant commute that I’m not quite used to — and I haven’t been sleeping well either. My girlfriend is frustrated that we aren’t spending as much time together anymore and it feels overwhelming. I honestly feel stressed out and anxious most of the time. I even woke up at 3 a.m. multiple times this week with my heart racing and was unable to go back to sleep. I wonder if it’s time to just take a break from my relationship with my girlfriend (we’ve been dating six months, in case that’s important) so I can focus on my new job. Should I stop spending so much time with my friends? I just don’t know what to do next. I am having trouble making decisions for the first time in my life.

— Adjustment Problems

Dear Adjustment:

I can see why you would be struggling. You have come across more than one of the mental health community’s “big ticket stressors” in the last few months. Moving and starting a new job (not to mention the frustration of commuting) are incredibly challenging experiences, even when they represent welcome changes. Please be gentle with yourself. You are reacting as many of us would in your shoes.

But let’s not go about making big relationship decisions amid such circumstances. We need to triage this situation. Prioritize the most pressing issues and work them out first. My pick? Sleep. This is the most important issue to get under control before you start slashing and burning your relationships. Make this your first goal and do everything you can to protect your sleep.

Start by asking yourself if you are practicing good “sleep hygiene.” Are you setting a time to stop working each night? Putting screens away an hour before bedtime? Avoiding caffeine and sugar late in the day? All of these habits contribute to sleep disturbance. If you wake up early and cannot fall back asleep after a reasonable amount of time, get up — but do not start doing work. Instead, try to exercise and set yourself up for a better night of sleep the next night.

Once you are sleeping better, I imagine you might see some of the other stressors in a different light. Your having trouble making decisions could truly be sleep-related, so please give getting good rest precedence before taking drastic measures to try to feel better.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to


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