Families, Finances, and Stress

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Stress, particularly job-related stress, is a major problem in Illinois.

Four in 10 adults in the Chicago metropolitan area worry that the state’s financial crisis may impact their personal life or their families, according to a survey released by the American Psychological Association in November.

More than 70 percent of residents cite work (74 percent), the economy (71 percent) and money (70 percent) as significant causes of stress, the survey found. Workplace stress is building with 37 percent of respondents feeling tense or stressed out during the work day, up from 28 percent in 2009.

Linda Rubinowitz, PhD, clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, talked to Medill Reports about how job-related stress can affect a husband, wife or partner, and how to cope with tough financial times.

How does one keep work and home life separate?
Allow for transition time. If you take the train from downtown to the suburbs, for example, use that time to debrief yourself on the stresses of the day. [Or], come in and connect, hug and kiss, then say, “Gee, I need a little time on my own.”

What effects can stress have on a husband/wife/partner?
In a significant relationship, hopefully people are pretty attune to each other, so the significant other…can very often pick up the sadness, frustration, and anger. In some ways the [partner] under high stress becomes unavailable to them.

Sometimes the partner who is available and wants to be helpful is rebuffed, and that puts stress on relationship. There’s a sort of independence - they pull away with the attitude that "I want to solve this on my own" so [they] feel better about [themselves or their] skills. This pushes the companion away, and the benefit from each other isn’t there.

How does personal stress affect productivity at work?
One needs to be able to manage personal stressors so that they don’t interfere with the ability to concentrate and be available at work.

What you hope is that one allows themselves enough time to understand what the experience is, what they need to do about it, and be able to draw a circle around it and say, "I can leave it here at home," or wherever it may be, sometimes in a therapist’s office. Then, go out and know when [they] need to go back to it, but not let it override [them] or overwhelm [them] in the day.

What are your thoughts on working from home? Is it more or less stressful on the worker? On the family?
It depends on how the person takes it. If they can work at home and they’re not also trying to care for children at the same time, that can be a wonderful thing. It cuts down travel, [so] they’re there easily at the end of the day to meet children or a spouse coming home. It can also be isolating, if they need to have other adult connections and the energy of the work place. So much is dependent on how that individual and that family needs to operate.

How can one cope with unemployment?
Sometimes people get depressed. If it lasts a long time, they may need counseling. It can go to a more problematic area, and they get very anxious because they don’t have a lot of control.

It helps to have a structured life even if you don’t have somewhere to get up and go everyday. Plan out your day. Spend time searching the Internet for jobs, socialize with other people, exercise, or volunteer – that helps with the whack to one’s self-esteem.

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