August 2012 Reflections





We have all experienced the feeling of not being able to switch off from work when we are away from the workplace.  At the end of the day when we are looking forward to having some time to ourselves and relaxing with our friends or family, we can find ourselves going over the frustrations we have experienced and reliving those difficult conversations with colleagues or supervisors.  We usually manage to keep our feelings under control at work, but somehow when we get home  they start to emerge in impatience or irritation with our partners or family.  Sometimes we don't feel like talking and just want to be left alone. 

For those with family responsibilities this can be particularly difficult and most parents find that there are more demands and expectations on them as soon as they walk in the door.  For working mothers this can mean helping children with homework, preparing dinner and attending to the various chores that lay waiting.  For fathers, it can mean being greeted with exuberant children who want their immediate attention.  Add to this, their partner's understandable expectations that they share responsibilities for the children or help prepare dinner.  Both parents are tired and often stressed and this adds to the pressure on family life.  Single people will have their own set of pressures and conflicting demands in the form of expectations from family or friends and perhaps the addition of study requirements. 

Recent research by Dr. Andrew Fraser, author of the book "The Third Space", found that 73% of professionals from various industries experienced negative responses when they arrived home from work.  They cited feelings of fatigue, frustration, anger, despair, sadness, relief and resentment.  Dr. Fraser looked at the transitions from work to home and found that the workers who were able to introduce some type of boundary between the two had a more positive state of mind when they arrived home.  This involved establishing a "third space" where they could process the events of the day and leave the "negative baggage" behind.  Some were able to do this in the course of a long drive home or being able to go to the gym straight after work.  He emphasised the need to Reflect, Rest and Reset before re-entering our home life.  In the study participants were taught to follow these 3 steps:

Step 1:  Reflect:  This is where they reflected on and analysed the day.  However, they were encouraged to focus only on what they had achieved and what had gone well for them.  This activity  increased their level of positive emotion.

Step 2:  Rest:  In this step they took time to focus their mind on a single thought and relax their breathing.  Being calm and present, allowed their physiology to recover from the stressful day and their brain chemistry to support more constructive behaviours. 

Step 3:  Reset:  This is where they became clear about their intention for the home space and articulated the specific behaviours they wanted to exhibit; in other words, how they wanted to "show up" as a parent/partner. 

After 4 weeks of practising these 3 steps, participants reported a 41% improvement in their behaviour in the home.

Do you have a "third space" you create?  Some of you may be wondering how you could make time for these things as you would be home later and perhaps this would cause you more stress.  If you do not have the opportunity to take time for yourself before you get home, then make it a priority to have a "buffer" between your work role and your home role.  Some of the following ideas may help:

 1.  If you have driven home, sit in the car for a few minutes before you walk inside the house.  Spend a few minutes doing some mindful breathing.

2.   If you have used public transport you will have had the advantage of a walk to your house.  Use this time to look around and notice your surroundings.  Be aware of the trees, the gardens and the pavement as you walk along and allow your mind to slow down.

3.   After greeting your partner/family, go and change out of your work clothes and put on something comfortable to relax in.

4.   Turn off your mobile phone and electronic devices and put them in another room so you will not be distracted.

5.   If you have children, spend some time talking about their day before rushing into preparing the evening meal.  This will help you slow down and show them you value this time with them.

6.   Try to focus on one thing at a time.  Although it is tempting to employ multitasking at this busy stage, you will be less stressed and more effective if you focus on one task.

7.   Put on some calming music and avoid the TV.

8.   If there is something bothering you about work, allocate a period of time to think about it.  Limit this to 15 minutes and schedule it when you have done what you need to do.

9.   During this 15 minute "worry time" you can go through any issues and make notes about your thoughts and feelings.  If there are things you need to do at work the next day, write them down so you don't have to worry about forgetting them.

10.  If you have a partner, you may agree on some time to talk about work if you both are comfortable with this, but make this time limited and when it is up change the topic to something non work related.

11.  If something good happened at work, make sure you share this first before you launch into any negative things.  Be mindful that your partner may have had a stressful day and check out if they want to talk about work or not.

12.  If you absolutely have to do any work at home, choose a time after you have had a chance to relax for a while and do not work after 9.30 pm.  Your mind needs time to relax before you go to bed or you will have trouble sleeping.


I hope the above tips give you some ideas on how to create a "third space" for yourself.  If you would like more assistance with reducing the effect of work stress on your personal life, you may like to book in for some sessions with me.  I can help you learn how to leave your work stress at work and develop a self care plan to make you more resilient.  Contact me on 0438 855328.