Spending time at home is way more stressful than spending time at work, according to a surprising new study by Penn State researchers. This comes as something of a surprise given the endless national dialogue about American working too much.
The study measured participants’ cortisol levels, which is one of our bodies’ major markers of stress, both at home and at work. The results show that for both men and women, spending time at home is not very relaxing. The study also learned that women often feel even better at work than men do. This pertains to people both with and without children, but especially for those who don’t have kids.
A big cause for these results could be the fact that work is generally a pretty straightforward situation. For the most part, when you show up for work in the morning, you know what’s expected of you all day and what types of problems will arise in front of you (for example, you probably can safely assume there won’t be any family drama or dishes that need to be washed in your cubicle). In some ways, this makes work a reliable little escape – it may not always be fun, but at least you’ll know what to anticipate, and that you’ll be compensated for the tasks you do. You also know you can always eventually leave someday if you want.
But at home, you’re confronted with bills/money, housework, and depending on your situation, your relationship and caring for kids. There’s no compensation, and on top of this, you’re supposed to have leisure time. There’s also the fact that as much as you love your family or housemates, you don’t escape from them at end of the day like you do with your coworkers (okay, that sounded more dark than I intended, but you get my drift).
What I think this study also shows is that once people get home, they don’t know how or aren’t able to start their leisure time. To me, it seems like a possible solution is to look inward and really consider what your personal boundaries are regarding when you will and will not work – this includes both household chores and assignments from your job. The world will never stop turning, and the additions to your to-do list will always keep coming, so it’s up to you to place endpoints to work within your day. I know this isn’t an easy thing to do, but nobody will set those limits for you (in fact, most people will keep trying to demand more and more of your time!), and until it happens, it’s your quality of life that’s in the balance.
It’s something that takes a lot of trial and error to find what works best, but it might make a world of difference and make your home a quiet place again. That said, I’ve only sort of managed to figure these things out myself. Have any of you found effective ways to manage your to-do lists and make home a relaxing place to sit down in for a “Scandal” without guilt about unfinished work?
[Image of a stressed woman via Shutterstock]