How To Stop Taking Work Stress Out On Your Partner & Family

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caucasian couple snuggling lying down on a couch, sepia-toned

Does this sound familiar?  You wrap up your workday of nonstop high demands, get in your car (or leave your office) and head home eager to relax.

But the next thing you know, you open the door and the next thing you know you’re the opposite of relaxed. 

You are bombarded with sights and sounds in your very own home that are almost as stressful as your work: A partner deep in own their to-do’s, children screaming for attention and messes everywhere. Even your pet seems to be desperately in need of your TLC.

Suddenly, you have a flood of new responsibilities that will take you into the evening. You know you aren't at your best or giving your family your best self. 

You’ve gone from looking forward to walking through that door to suddenly wanting to scream or simply run in the opposite direction. 

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You are not alone! But, it doesn’t have to feel this way. You can show up for your family in the way you want to and bring positive energy into your home. 

Here are some helpful tips to transition from work life to home life in a supportive way.

1. Take time to plan what you want to have happen.

As you embark on any change path you will want to start with some mental preparation, thinking about the hopeful positive outcomes that will come from these changes. 

Take some time to envision how you want your re-entry home to look like.

You might even want to journal the reasons why you’re ready to try something different and how you plan to go about this. Set your intentions of how you’re committed to behave differently and cope when your triggers are naturally activated. 

Share your plans and intentions with those at home to help create a supportive environment to practice this new way of interacting.  

2. Engage in relaxation strategies.

Know what you’re working with in terms of the amount of time and accessibility you have as you shift gears on your way back through that door. Be realistic. 

Relaxation helps counter the physiological effects of the fight or flight response you may have when encountered with stress. 

Create space to engage in deep slow cleansing breaths to help regulate your sympathetic nervous system so that you’re at your best to combat any new stress activations that you may encounter. 

You may want to listen to a travel-safe mediation, a podcast, or music on your walk or ride home. 

You can also consider taking time to call and connect with a friend as you transition away from work stress to help leave it behind, if that feels helpful. 

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3. Listen to the wisdom of relationship experts.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman talk about the importance of departures and reunions.

Make a point to connect with each family member before leaving in the morning and upon returning each evening. It only takes a few minutes to give a connected hug, a warm smile, and a short discussion about the day.

Often our energy is split between greeting someone and thinking about where we are going or coming from. If you give 100% of your attention to those renewed interactions you will feel more connected and calm, which will help you better tend to the other things that you need to take care of.

Also, make a point to look around your environment for things that you appreciate. This can take some pressure off of your preconceived expectations in coming home.

4. Model positive behavior for your kids.

Rituals and routines are a staple when it comes to securely attached relationships with our children.

If you find that the transition home and the evening routine is met with chaotic energy, establish calm, predictable, and expected ways to reconnect. For instance: a meaningful hug, unpacking the day, and hearing about your kiddo’s highs and lows are great ways to reconnect as you shift gears into the evening. 

Growing up, my father would walk through the door in his 3 piece suit and announce “I’m going upstairs to change into a dad” returning in a sweatpant-wearing smile.

Take some time to tap into your authentic self to sort out what works best for you.

Remember, while your work stressors may still be circling around in your head, they are yours, and those around you may not know or understand what is happening for you.  

By planning ahead, engaging in mindful relaxation, and reconnecting in meaningful ways you will have a better chance to avoid the regret that comes with difficult re-entries and slide into that welcoming and comforting place that you want in your home. 

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Julie Mayer Norvilas, LMFT, is a Marriage and Family Therapist dedicated to helping cultivate healthy relationships. To learn more, visit her website.