Don’t let work anxiety spill over into family time

Learn to tune out the noise after work and be emotionally present for your family (istockphoto)
Learn to tune out the noise after work and be emotionally present for your family (istockphoto)


Sonali Gupta highlights the importance of bringing the best emotional version of yourself home from work to improve intimate relationships

The last six months have been tough and I don’t feel seen in my relationship," says a 45-year-old client. “I feel my husband is never emotionally present for me. It’s as if his colleagues, his boss and his work get the best parts of him. All I get is an exhausted, unhappy version. It has been impacting how I feel every time I come home, it feels like we save our best for work and bring the worst sides home. As a result, we fight a lot or each do our own things."

This is a concern that comes up often in therapy, primarily in the context of partner relationships. Female clients, especially, feel guilty about their children getting “emotional leftovers", and the reality is that children can sense when parents bring their tired and unenthusiastic selves back home from work even if they do not have the emotional vocabulary to express it.

In the last decade, with the rise of the use of technology, we are continuously working, even at home, and this is impacting how our loved ones experience our presence.

Also read: Bridging age barriers at the workplace

If you are experiencing this too, then be self-compassionate to yourself and start working towards changing it. Being mindful about how we choose to show up at home is a good starting point to understand what needs to change. One of my favourite questions to ask couples and individuals is: What version of yourself do you bring back home to your family?

The answers range from work anxieties spilling into family time and being wired even after returning from work to finding it hard to be emotionally present for their children or spouse to believing they present a stressed, pessimistic version of themselves that is neither curious nor patient.

As a therapist, I see the helplessness and low self-esteem clients feel as they talk about this. It’s never easy to acknowledge how we fail to bring our best selves to our most important and intimate relationships.

Some clients do say that they bring their full self to their family, and are engaged and filled with vitality and kindness. These are people who have consciously worked towards this, and their perspective can benefit all of us.

What I suggest to couples is to talk to each other about how they haven’t been bringing their best emotional version home from work, and explain that they want to change. This awareness along with accountability opens a window to be gentle with each other and move forward. It also avoids getting into a trap of blaming each other.

A good idea, whether you work remotely or in office, is to take some time to switch off, slow your breathing or relax before you step in to your role as a parent or partner. A simple act of listening to calming music, putting the phone away, muting notifications on your smartwatch or coming home and taking a shower can help the process of creating some distance from work.

To create some excitement and curiosity, I tell couples to save important news for a phone call or an in-person chat, rather than texting their partner or multiple friends. Create time to share, engage and listen attentively, plan an activity on a Friday night or a weekend that is playful and requires all of you as a family to be away from your devices.

At work, we constantly soften our language and appreciate colleagues but we forget to do it with our family, so slip it into conversations and let them know how you value their support and presence.

If we want tenderness and emotional connection in our intimate relationships, we need to tune in to our partner and children, and learn to tune out the noise, whether it’s work or administrative issues.

Sonali Gupta is a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist. She is the author of the book Anxiety: Overcome It And Live Without Fear and has a YouTube channel, Mental Health with Sonali.

Also read: Drop the phone and talk to your loved ones




Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.