Do you ever come home irritable because you had a rough day at the office? Do you take your frustrations from work out on your partner or family? If so, you’re not alone. It’s an issue I address in my therapy office often. I hear from parents who are disappointed in themselves for yelling at their children. I also hear from spouses who are tired of walking on eggshells in an effort to avoid becoming the undeserving target of a day's worth of frustration and anger.
For hard-working people in high-stress jobs, these unhealthy dynamics take a toll on their relationships. And a tense home situation can lead to more stress, creating a vicious downward spiral.
If you’re guilty of taking your frustrations out on your family, the solution might not be to get a less stressful job. Instead, you can take steps to manage your stress better. Then, no matter how bad your day is, you can avoid taking it out on anyone else.
The Two Most Effective Stress Management Strategies
Research confirms that people who are mistreated at work are likely to mistreat people at home. If you’ve been insulted, criticized, or belittled, you’re at a higher risk of doing the same to your loved ones at the end of the day.
A study by researchers at the University of Florida examined how people can prevent a work/home spillover. They discovered that mistreatment at the office reduces an employee’s self-regulation skills: It’s harder to control impulses and manage emotions, which means those individuals are more likely to do and say things they regret by the time they arrive home.
According to the study, two things can help improve self-regulation and reduce stress: sleep and exercise.
Participants who took at least 10,900 steps each day were less likely to be abusive toward family members when compared to participants who took only 7,000 steps.
They also found that burning an additional 587 calories could reduce the harmful effects of mistreatment. For the average American male, that means an hour of swimming or a brisk 90-minute walk.
Many studies have discovered a link between sleep deprivation and poor self-regulation skills. This study confirmed those findings.
Create a Positive Cycle
Of course, adequate sleep and plenty of exercise will do more than just help you come home from work in a better mood: They’re key components in living a healthy lifestyle.
Researchers have linked adequate sleep to everything from increased creativity to longer life spans. You’ll also have a better attention span, which in turn can improve your performance and reduce your stress.
So while many stressed-out people think they lack the energy to squeeze in a workout or the time to go to bed at a decent hour, sleep and exercise are the solutions to reducing stress — and less stress could mean happier and healthier relationships.
Getting more sleep and making time to exercise can stop the downward spiral of stress and burnout. And that’s not just good for you — it’s also good for your family.
Want to know how to give up the bad habits that rob you of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.