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Work Stress and Relationships

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Excessive work stress has the tendency to spill into intimate relationships. This is called relationship distress explained by the spillover model where the stress experienced in the workplace spills unintentionally into home. The process is such that when someone experiences stress at work, the other person empathises with the difficulties as a way of giving support, and consequently the negative affect is transmitted to the relationship.

A person may be stressed at work for a number of reasons. This may be due to the person’s difficulties with asserting themselves in their relationships, traits such as perfectionism and self-esteem problems. Studies have shown individuals with traits such as conscientiousness may overextend themselves, experience difficulties with saying no, thus increasing the number of hours they might spend in the office and feel even more distress. These mechanisms lead to the development of a conflict between one’s work and personal life demands, where leisure and relaxation time starts to compete with demands at work, leading to one feeling exhausted, stressed, lose focus and enjoyment in life.

One important psychological factor that impacts stressed individuals is rumination. Rumination is when someone reflects over and over about the events that occurred during the day or in the person’s past. A detailed review of many high profile studies showed that individuals with high work stress also ruminated about events that occurred during the day. For example, someone may repeatedly review the injustices and upsetting events that happened, leading to unresolved emotions that they found difficult to leave or resolve, leading to further distress at work, relationships and at home (such as not being able to unwind or get into arguments with partners). These matters of conflict and their possible sources, are usually concerns one may explore and work through during his or her therapy with me.

Moreover, an individual might try to come up with strategies to deal with work problems in their personal time, which take up cognitive resources to enjoy other activities with partner, friends and family. These issues overload the person’s cognitive resources and attentional capacities to constructively manage and respond to challenging relationship matters and one’s own needs. Cognitive overload may then lead to a decrease in threshold for problem solving, tolerating demanding discussions and emotional outbursts with friends and partners. We have a limited attentional capacity, so therapy can assist by exploring, naming, resolving and understanding. This process should hopefully assist in freeing up cognitive resources and help feel more relaxed over the duration of the treatment.

One factor that may precipitate work stress is explained by the demand-control theory. This theory indicates that highly demanding jobs that do not provide high decision latitude create significant stress. For example, an individual might not have the ability to influence his or her own targets or outcomes, which may lead to feelings of helplessness. We can work through these thoughts and emotions in therapy to come to some understanding.

In our every day lives, expectations for ideal work conditions can be unrealistic. In real life, managers are often dealing with their own demands and stressors too. Therefore, there may be the presence of competing and conflicting interests between organizational demands and what might be in the individual’s best interest. So therapy can help by speaking, processing, interpreting and making sense to help the person reduce stress, and think clearly to apply to decisions or in general have an opportunity to be listened to in a non-judgemental space, which can in itself provide some relief. My approach to therapy is highly tailored, together we will determine what you need, and how you may benefit from treatment.

Monitor Your Stress and Speak to a Psychologist

It is recommended that you speak to a psychologist if you experience your stress at unmanageable levels. Symptoms of stress may include, difficulty functioning at work, home or other domains, attention or health is affected, emerging psychosomatic symptoms or a sense of hopelessness. You can discuss your concerns with me in your initial consultation.

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