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Stress reactions at home

Don Norum, MSW

Stress reactions | Stress assessments | Benefits of healthy stress management | Learning healthy stress management | Healthy stress management home

Unhealthy stress reactions

Unhealthy example

You're looking forward to coming home and relax after a stressful day at work. Driving home, you dwell on the frustrations of the day thinking that you don't want to hear the kids bickering when you get home. You walk into the house and hear your children arguing. Jason and Amy immediately blame each other for the argument trying to get you to take sides.

You immediately tighten up just wanting peace and quiet as you find yourself yelling at Jason and Amy telling them to go to their rooms. You're thinking, "I can't take this." You get your peace and quiet, but feel guilty for yelling and sending Amy and Jason to their room after not seeing them all day.

You answer the phone to hear more bad news. Now the night is surely ruined because your spouse will be late. You're thinking, "I can't take this! I'll never have time to make several phone calls, prepare dinner and help the children with their homework."

How did you react?

The following reactions added to your stress.

  • You were uptight, on edge as you walked in the door.
  • You took out your frustrations on your children.
  • You were caught up in useless negative thinking dreading all you needed to do.

Stress reactions can be downright unhealthy contributing to immediate physical and long-term health problems such as anger, anxiety, depression, insomnia, dizziness, rapid heart beat, tight jaw or shoulders, headaches, back pain, hypertension, coronary heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome to name a few. You can't avoid stress. But you can learn how to react to the stressful situations better.

Healthy example

Let's replay coming home with healthy stress reactions. Driving home from work you've taken several moments to release physical tension and minimize thinking about the stressful work day. You turn on some music and shift your attention to looking forward to seeing family. You pause for a few moments when you get home, before getting out of the car, to relax and think about the family.

You walk into the house as you hear Jason and Amy arguing. They immediately blame each other for the argument. At the first sound of their arguing you pause for a moment, so you don't over react, and ignore their complaining as you greet them with a smile and hug.

Useless thoughts like - "I can't take this!" or "Why does this have to happen?" - creep in when you learn your spouse will be late. You feel yourself tense up. You pause for a moment to release the tension and dismiss the useless thoughts. You remind yourself not to get worked up and put your energy into a plan of action to get things done. You engage the kids in conversation and their help since mom will be late.

How did you react?

You were able to:

  • Change your focus from work stress to the family on the drive home.
  • Release physical tension and dismiss useless thoughts several times on the drive home to be prepared to greet the family.
  • Ignore your children's negative reactions as you react with a smile and a hug.
  • Dismiss useless thoughts in order to come up with a plan of action since your wife will be late.

Healthy stress reactions will improve your attitude and reduce the physical strain on your body.