The health consequences of stress at home can be both fast-acting and far-reaching. For example, even relatively short periods of acute home-based stress (like a month of isolation and home-schooling during a viral outbreak) can cause anxiety, disrupt sleep, and even manifest symptoms of PTSD.
It is critical to recognize when you are feeling stressed at home and take swift action to manage it, while also understanding that a key component of effective at-home stress relief is managing your attitude about and reactions to uncontrollable and/or non-removable stressors.
Stress in the home can take a toll on any person’s health. It impacts the wellbeing of and relationships between all members of a household, including those who work in and outside the home, caregivers, and dependents. These negative consequences can be felt regardless of age (though older adults may have an easier time anticipating increases in at-home stress) and are near-universally mismanaged. Moreover, stressful home life can be one of the most insidious causes of long-term mental health struggles, including depression and anxiety.
It is no surprise that stress at home has been linked to dysfunction at work and school, as well as with interpersonal relationships and youth development.
Even under ideal circumstances, many people struggle to manage the competing stressors of their work and home lives. Moreover, work-to-home stress and anxiety spillover are common among working-age adults (especially those with extended family members and children living at home). Even among people with full-time employment out of the house, stress/anxiety related to unpaid at-home responsibilities outweighs (and has a more significant physiological impact than) workplace stress.
This suggests that it is essential to adopt an attitude which prioritizes home-based stress relief and ongoing management, rather than viewing at-home stress as secondary or unrelated to other stressors.
It is important to acknowledge that there is stress at home and that it is neither abnormal nor an indication that members of the household are bad or shameful people. Stress does not mean that the relationships within the household are bad, or that the household itself is failing. Stress is simply a fact of life that everyone feels once in a while.
This acknowledgment is critical to at-home stress relief and management because, as research has shown, many people have a tendency to feel pressure and guilt to maintain a “perfect” home life and household. Likewise, this same attitude can help keep expectations about at-home stress relief attainable; perfection is not the goal.
Most often, it is the daily hassles that cause stress at home — the chronic, everyday aggravators — that people struggle most to manage. Consequently, whether people experience stress at home because of work-to-home spillover or fully home-based stress, these kinds of stressful situations tend to get more stressful unless (and until) they make an active and explicit effort towards stress relief and management.
Easy-to-implement strategies for stress relief at home include:
Making a household-wise agreement to “check stress at the door,” so to speak, can go a long way towards creating a more stress-free environment. Creating space for stress-management conversations, confrontations, complaints, and even tantrums is important. Just make sure you reserve the remainder of the time for family activities, shared meals, and gamified tasks. Doing so will ensure that stressful events, experiences, and situations do not overwhelm the greater context of household interactions.
That way, that context can remain supportive, respectful, and enjoyable.
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