For some people, the summer provides a break from the seemingly endless work stress. Others don’t get any such luxury. Their summers are spent biding time until they can go on vacation. In the meantime, their “off-hours” at home are filled with drama. The relationships with their family can suffer. Maybe it even gets so bad that their Sunday nights turn into their Monday mornings, leaving them stressed out around the clock. For people who own their own business, work stress can seem to be a 24/7 presence in our lives. This week, Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal looked at the bleed of work stress creating drama at home.
Different Reactions to Stress
Ms. Shellenbarger points out that there can be two different natural reactions to stress. Some people have a “fight-or-flight” reaction to stress. Others use a “tend-and-befriend” reaction. That reaction is “an impulse to seek comfort by approaching others to talk” according to Adela Timmons, an assistant professor of clinical and quantitative psychology at Florida International University. Ms. Timmons’ study found that the tend-and-befriend reaction was more common among women, but it tended to spark more arguments. Men were more likely to veer towards fight-or-flight, but their spouses may see that response as emotional neglect.
With these differing reactions to work stress, it is important for people in healthy relationships to find a way to hit the “reset” button together.
Tips for Protecting Your Home Life
Ms. Shellenbarger offers some tips on what to do:
- Build a buffer between work and home for a calming activity, such as exercise.
- Listen respectfully when your partner describes sources of stress.
- Practice asking your partner for what you need to calm down.
- Reframe job stress in a positive light as a potential source of a raise or promotion.
There are also some tips on what not to do about your work stress:
- Dump on your mate as soon as you come in the door.
- Assume your partner decompresses in the same way you do.
- Allow your evenings to be consumed by complaints about work.
- Assume without asking that your spouse wants you to solve the problem or give advice.
There are many different ways you can deal with work stress at home. Some of those can be unhealthy (retreating into addictive vices) while some can be healthy (hitting the gym for a workout or going for a walk with your family). Finding the right balance is the best way to ensure you don’t take all that work stress home with you.