Well, that's what a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania suggests. [You can read about it here.]
The study revealed while people perceive work as the source of their stress, their cortisol levels (what creates physical stress in our bodies), actually went down while at the office.
How can that be?
Obviously, you don't like work better than your family! So, what's really causing this? One argument is work becomes a much-needed break from the demands of the other key areas of our lives, like relationships and parenting. We're more invested emotionally in our friends and family -- creating higher stress levels when we feel their pull.
Here are some examples:
- A mom coming home from work to a load of chores, dinner to cook, and two children vying for her attention.
- A husband walking in the door to a stressed-out wife, a long honey-do list, and several children wanting him to drop everything and play ball.
- A single person struggling to fit in a visit to the parents, time with a significant other, an event with friends, while also juggling a workout and a night course to help them advance their career so they can make more money and buy a place of their own so they don't have to live with messy roommates anymore.
Basically, we have many other areas of life to fit in between work and sleep. It's no wonder our stress levels go up when we leave the job!
SOLUTION: Life-Balance Grid
I can relate to this study. I actually do love my job -- but not more than my family. However, at one point, I did find the pressure of coming home to a long to-do list within a compressed time frame was taking its toll. That's when I pulled out the Life-Balance Grid. It's an assessment of the eight key areas of life and maps how satisfied you are with all of them. On a scale of 1-7 (1 being "completely dissatisfied" and 7 being "totally satisfied"), you rate each area and then connect the dots. The key is to look at which area is dragging down your ability to create a straight line. The lowest area on the list gets top priority and you work on it until it moves up the grid. Then you tackle the next one.
How to Get Started
First, you need to imagine that if you were forced to prioritize the eight key areas in order of importance, how would they rank? They are as follows:
Mental Self (FYI - Religious Beliefs Falls In This)
Environment (i.e. Your Home)
Family & Friends
Hobbies & Recreation
NOTE: No two people have the same order to their priority list. You need to decide what's most important to you. Then, take a close look at your Life-Balance Grid and see how your priorities match to your levels of satisfaction. Pretty quickly, you'll see which areas are making you unhappy outside the office. Those are the ones you tackle first so that you can start to feel more in sync with your priorities in life.
What do you think? I'd love to hear what readers are doing to minimize the stress outside of work. While I don't pretend to think the above will automatically reduce your cortisol levels, it will bring more awareness to what is causing the stress outside of work and how you can focus on ways to feel more in balance. I don't believe perfect balance exists, but there's nothing wrong with trying to make ourselves feel better, right?
Want more on the subject? Join me over at CAREEEREALISM where we're focused on all things related to make your career better. If you need more help, then check out the resources offered at CareerHMO where I do all my one-on-one career coaching.