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Taking home stress from work

August 16, 2011 - Michael Palmer
Have major changes, such as layoffs and reorganization, taken place where you work?

Does your boss expect you to take up the slack from laid off workers or reduced work force numbers and still maintain your own job at the same level of quality?

Do you come home from work physically or emotionally drained, with little energy left for your family? Do you find it difficult to get out of bed every day knowing that you face an overwhelming workload?

Do you suffer from headaches, backaches, digestive upsets, fatigue or exhaustion that can be traced to your problems at work? Are you drinking too much coffee, smoking too many cigarettes, eating too much or unable to fall asleep at night due to work-related anxiety?

Do you feel like you're always behind schedule or wish you could just quit your job?

If so, you may be among tens of millions of people in the United States who suffer from job and family-related stress, a problem that's far more common than either workers or employers have previously realized.

Bringing stress-related issues home with you just compounds the original problem(s). We are all guilty of committing this error. We have a tendency to take that high-octane paced environment and just keep on driving until we drive it on home. Then you’re ‘wired for sound’ for your significant other or family member. You end up being unpleasant and short-fused with persons who really have nothing to do with your stress. Yet, these are the people that usually have to figure out how to deal with it? So then your level of stress gets even higher since you have no solution.

Some employers abuse their employees, and they then in turn, take those frustrations home to their family. It's truly amazing how many people think it's o.k. to abuse other people, especially those they care about most. Husbands and wives frequently abuse each other. Parents and children easily fall into abusive patterns.

I'm not just talking about extreme physical or emotional abuse. I'm also including milder forms of abuse, such as daily put-downs, sarcastic remarks, other negative comments, withholding affection or sex, refusing to talk, constantly complaining about things that need to be done and of course threatening to leave.

Many people repeatedly engage in these subtle forms of abuse. Married couples especially tend to act as if their marriage license gives them the absolute right to verbally or otherwise abuse each other.

As harmless you might think such negative interactions are, they are much more damaging to our relationships than most people appreciate.

If you want your long-term relationships to succeed, you must learn to resist these common abusive tendencies. You should resist them at all times, even if you feel justified in responding this way.

Being defensive is not only destructive--it shuts you off from an extremely valuable source of feedback. In order to succeed in our interpersonal relationships, we've got to be willing to admit when we are wrong. Ben Franklin said, "The sting of another's criticism usually comes from the truth in it."

If you routinely shut out this valuable source of feedback, you will continue to commit the same mistakes, over and over again, until the other person gets tired of this...and you as well.

Perhaps the single biggest mistake you can make if you want to have good relationships with others is to always try to be right in your dealings with others. Why is this so destructive? Because in order for you to be right, the other person must end up being wrong.

Being right and being in control are often necessary to succeed in our jobs or professions. A doctor or nurse, for instance, must try to be right all the time in life and death situations. Police or even work supervisors must also take control in certain situations and act in ways that reflect their superior knowledge and experience. But if these work leaders take those same patterns home and try to use them to dominate his or her spouse or kids, serious relationship problems will usually occur.

Sometime ago I was watching a seminar on television, a stress management consultant explained how to manage an organization with less stress. The consultant raised a glass of water and asked the audience, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers from the group ranged from an ounce to a couple of pounds.

The speaker then said “The weight doesn't matter. It all depends on how long you try to hold the glass. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for a day, you'll need to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.

"And that's the way it is with managing an organization. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down and rest before holding it again in your hand," he concluded. "Work is already stressful enough, do you really need your home to follow the same path?"

So, the simple answer is: Just don’t bring it home in the first place.

Yep, easier said than done.


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