One morning, I woke up after a long night’s sleep with the intention to arrive early for a very important meeting. It was imperative that I make a good impression to those who would be there, and I’d been concerned about it all week. The night before, I’d done everything I could think of to prepare for an early start – I picked out my clothes, prepared lunch, and packed my briefcase the night before. Certainly I had done my part to allow myself some breathing room before the meeting.
Unfortunately, my wife decided she needed to finish an Excel project at the last minute and asked if I would be able to take our 14-year-old son to school. I felt my jaw clench as I agreed. I helped our son prepare his things, got in the car, and began pulling out of the driveway. As we left, I noticed he had left emptied trash cans out.
“Son, what’s wrong with this picture?” I asked, angry that I had to take him to school in the first place, but becoming more frustrated with every delay. “Haven’t I told you to always put these cans back? What were you doing? Watching TV? You know you can’t watch TV on school nights! You’re keeping me held up because you didn’t do the job you were supposed to do!”
At this point, I was yelling irrationally. While I could have easily had him get out of the car and return the cans to their proper place, I chose to yell and further delay both of us. That’s when he asked, “Dad, why are you yelling at me?”
“Because I can’t yell at your mother!” I yelled back before I could process the thought. I had certainly brought my work stress home and let it interfere with my life.
After that occurrence, I decided to do something about leaving my work stress at work. Rather than calling it “stress management,” I opted for something much more manly: “Not cussing people out at the drop of a hat” management.
It’s a harsh fact that many Americans bring their work stress home with them. After all, we tend to consider our jobs to be one of the most stressful undertakings in our lives. According to a study done by Northwestern National Life, 40% of American workers believe their jobs are “very or extremely stressful.” That’s a huge number! The Families and Work Institute found more concerning data, stating that 26% of workers declare they are burnt out at work. Couple those stats with the fact that the average worker spends at least 2,080 hours per year at their place of business and it’s easy to see why people bring their work home.
Presumably you came upon this article because you wanted help to alleviate your own stress. You’ve identified it. That’s an important step. I won’t harp on the details of what the symptoms of stress are, but if you’d like to read up on the symptoms that you didn’t know about before, and some you may be experiencing, WebMD has a helpful list of the symptoms of stress.
Managing stress is an extremely underrated and underappreciated undertaking that can change your life. It can make you more productive (therefore less stressed) at work, create harmony within your family, give you more energy before and after work, and can help you engage in healthy pursuits outside of work, allowing you to avoid feeling like work is the only thing you do.
Men and women tend to manage stress differently, particularly when it comes to job-related stress. Women are more prone to discussing their feelings about work and stress, while men have a tendency toward engaging in stress-relieving activities outside of work. While these are all well and good in regards to stress management, there are some additional stress-relief activities that anyone can take on.
- Make a conscious choice to leave work stress at work. Before you pack your things up at work, pack your stresses in your briefcase with them. This is a symbol of your decision to leave work stress out of the home. Creating a ritual, such as rubbing a log placed outside of the home as one factory worker did, can help remind you of your commitment.
- Identify a productive outlet. Admit to yourself that you are stressed out. Don’t keep it bottled up. Transferring your pent-up energy into productivity at home can help manage your work stress. For instance, many people burn calories at the gym after work, while others write their thoughts down, compiling them for best-selling books later on. Whatever you love to do, use that to decompress.
- Fuel your passion. Many people lack passion for their jobs. After all, they think to themselves, this is just a way to pay the bills. For others, a job is a necessary stepping stone to what they are truly passionate about. Once that fact is identified, work-related stress is alleviated. Find your passion, engage with it, and work out how your job fits into your goals.
The technique that I most benefitted from is finding how work fuels my passion. I had the all-important epiphany that, though my job isn’t my passion, my job can allow me to follow my passion. For me, that passion is providing a good life for my family. My job is the way in which I am able to continue to give food, shelter, education, comfort, and entertainment to my loved ones. This realization allows me to think about my passion while at work and lessens the stress of work.
It’s important to note that these techniques aren’t cure-alls. You’ll still have stress at your job. You still might bring stress home from time to time. But finding what works for you will help you have an overall happier and healthier outlook on your work and give you methods that help keep you from bringing work stress to your home life.