Work and stress go hand-in-hand for most of us. Usually, work-related stress can be left at the office but, sometimes, it can be impossible to “switch off” when we get home. This kind of stress, which can include intense worry and even anger, can negatively impact relationships and home life. If you have a partner who is experiencing this, it can be very hard to know how best to help. This article sets out a few ways to support them.
In the first few minutes of getting home, your spouse or significant other may feel the need to unburden themselves by recounting their frustrations. This kind of venting can be very cathartic and helpful in the process of unwinding and calming down. All the negative feelings that have accumulated at work — and not been expressed — can finally be let free in a safe environment with a person they trust. In this heightened state of emotion, it’s very important to feel heard, so as busy as this time of day usually is, try to provide your undivided attention and listen fully. It’s important to understand that venting is not the same as a conversation that seeks advice or solutions — that may come later, but for now, just listen.
Naturally, there will be times when real conversations happen about the source of the stress and unhappiness. Listening fully is critical, of course, but so is offering support. If you are not sure what your partner needs, ask. Perhaps they want your thoughts on how to make things better at work, or perhaps they just want to talk it over and be reminded that you are there for them. It’s vital to show that you are fully engaged in the conversation. Importantly, don’t compare their stress or difficult situation to your own current challenges, however tempting, because this conversation is not about you. Schedule time for that talk, certainly, but stay focused on your partner in this instance.
Determine the Nature of the Stress
It’s important to understand what kind of stress is being experienced. Is it short-term stress, or is there a stressful situation that is on-going? A perceived threat of being laid off, coping with a difficult manager, or dealing with a hostile colleague can be much more stressful and difficult to manage than the stress caused by a particularly busy week. If you can determine that the stress being experienced is likely to be short-lived, it can help to put it into perspective and make it more manageable. If the source of the stress is on-going, then the two of you can discuss a way forward — such as practical steps to find a solution or coping strategies to relax and unwind at home.
In times of severe and on-going stress it’s common to feel exhausted and even reclusive, but getting out of the house is important to our sense of well-being and overall health. Encourage your partner to pursue activities such as hobbies or sports, and to meet up with friends. This can do much to remind them that life isn’t all about work, or being at home, and it can certainly take their mind of their worries and help them cope.
Create a Haven
The home should be a safe and tranquil place that we can retreat to at the end of the working day. Try to be mindful of things that impede that tranquility, such as clutter. Electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops can be very invasive and can most definitely interfere with a sense of peace and relaxation. Consider setting limits for dealing with emails and texts, for example, not past 8 p.m., or only if marked “urgent” and try to spend time together every day that is electronics-free. Going for an evening walk or drive is an excellent way to decompress and lift the spirits after a day’s work, and can also serve as a good time to talk.
Consider Enlisting Expert Help
Helping your loved one cope with stress can be stressful in itself! Sometimes, we have to look outside for assistance. If the situation does not seem to be improving, despite best efforts, you might want to consider suggesting your partner connects with a trained therapist or coach. Of course, professional help should complement the support you provide, not replace it.
When work stress comes home, the key thing is to ensure your spouse knows they’re not alone with their troubles, and that they have a supportive partner who is open to listening and willing to help.