Where is Your Stress Coming From?

I’ve been trying to pinpoint where my recent heightened anxiety is coming from. When I track it down, I can deal with it. Typically, I turn to work as the culprit. This article from Time has me thinking about other areas of stress, though.  

A new study out from the Council on Contemporary Families suggests that contrary to most surveys, people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Three Penn State researchers measured people’s cortisol, which is a stress marker, while they were at work and while they were at home and found it higher at what is supposed to be a place of refuge.

“Further contradicting conventional wisdom, we found that women as well as men have lower levels of stress at work than at home” writes one of the authors, Sarah Damaske, assistant professor of labor and employment relations, sociology and women’s studies at Penn State (the italics are hers). In fact women even say they feel better at work, she notes. “It is men, not women, who report being happier at home than at work.” Another surprise is that the findings hold true, says Damaske, for both those with children and without, but more so for nonparents. This is why, the authors conclude, people who work outside the home have better health.

After reading the entire article, I began to realize something important. While at work, I deal directly and quickly with issues that arise, conversations that need to be had. At home, I tend to stuff things to keep the peace. I also push difficult conversations to other times, so we can keep the home fun. Here’s the problem, when we stuff and push conversations we’re building up stress like a pressure cooker. Eventually, we’ll blow. Typically, it’s over something small that feels big due to the pressure build up.

Clarifying conversations and honest dialogue are just as important at home and at work to keep stress away. Sure, we know these this, but, knowing and doing are two very different things.

Rex Barrett @rexbarrett