Working away from home is a different kind of life. You switch on to work mode, and off to home-coming bliss. The longed-for days at home can, however, be anything but the zen zone you imagine when you are away. Coming home can turn into a veritable stress fest. Check out what tips and tools you can use to turn a coming home stress fest into a zen zone experience.
This post is inspired by comments The GOODista received on the posts about Working Away Relationships and Humanitarian Workers: An Endangered Species. The swing shift work and life balance is a balancing act that takes courage, humor and domestic logistics to get right. As a Humanitarian, Aviator, Contract worker or self-employed business owner – I am sure you can relate, and your comments would be more than helpful for us. To the outsider it makes little or no sense, right?
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Working Away: The Home Fires Are Always Warm
When you spend weeks away for work, you think of a home with a camera lens out of focus. The slightly distorted view is often rose-tinted. Glowing home scenes come before your eyes with happy (well-behaved) children beaming at a joyful partner that stirs a home cooked stew… The reality is often far away from this idea of perfect harmony.
The stay at home partner is de facto a single parent and has to deal with all things domestic. It is of course not that s/he cannot cope. No – rather the opposite tends to happen. S/he becomes so adept at solving home territory issues that you feel left out in the cold when you come home.
You watch as s/he chops the wood, clears the house, does the shopping and perfects the domestic logistics while working at the same time. You – the stay away partner – have no idea where anything belongs anymore. The balance does re-establish itself – but it takes a while.
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Working Away: At Home, Everyone Is Waiting For You
When you are away you need to feel, and expect perhaps, that everything at home is at a standstill. You want to be needed and be the trigger that makes the home projects start. You need the home zone to remain frozen in time like a movie in pause mode…
The world you are in is so intense. Hazardous conditions, terrorists and very real health threats make humanitarian, contractor and logistics personnel work lives an overly stressful existence. You take it for granted that your commute is accompanied by armored vehicles and AK47 bearing dudes in sunglasses.
The events you experience are extreme, and you may not even realize that you are in the midst of ongoing trauma, and may suffer from Chronic Stress or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Your home life needs to remain utterly still, harmonious and a total zen zone in your mind. This is a coping mechanism in its own self.
At home, life goes on with the challenges of everyday life. A commute to work, while dropping off kids to school, shopping, paying bills and taking care of elderly parents. It all adds up to everyday stresses. The stay at home partner can hardly understand the stresses of field life, and this can tear away at the very fabric of a relationship.
Tip: If you feel this is part of what you experience, you might want to read: How working away relationship can be partnerships.
Working Away: Home Stress Fest
The illusions that you so carefully harbor when you are away of what home is like tend to crash as soon as you enter the door. It does not have to be this way, but it often is.
You feel misunderstood. A guest in your own house, and very much as if you have miles to go before you can reach some sort of bridge between your ‘life’ and your home. The real issue is that the stay away from partner lands back in a careful set-up routine that works for the ‘single’ person/family home. The domestic peace is broken by the re-entry of a ticking bomb.
This bomb is you – the working away partner. Your stress fest unleashes on a home zen zone. The balance is broken – but it can be reset.
The stress fest begins, although this is the last thing you wanted. Where does it come from you wonder? Stress is experienced by most people, but some professions are more affected than others. Take a look at the facts in this excellent infographic: Stress and Your Health.
Interestingly, military personnel, airline pilots and firefighters are among the most stressful jobs you can have. They all have in common extended time away from home – and add direct danger to self as part of their stressors. Humanitarian Aid Workers (contractors included of course) are right up there and similarly suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just like enlisted personnel.
The Effects of Stress on Body and Mind
Your stress fest is in full swing and shows itself not only in your body’s reactions – but very much in the way you behave ( Tip: Check out your stress level with this stress test ) :
- The home travel by planes, trains, and automobiles is filled with idiotic ticket controllers, security staff and unhelpful aircrew. It is all so odd that they seem so much more stupid on your home journey compared to how helpful they were on departure. It’s them, not you – right?
- The smallest detail irritates you. All your things have mysteriously disappeared in your absence, and no socks are matching. You forget where you left your scarf, and cannot find your swimsuit. Since you never forget things, so it is all part of the conspiracy!
- You find fault in everyone, but yourself. Your dog is uncombed; the cat is not sitting when told; the partner is not loving, and your neighbor a moron. Right?
- Your lovely family is not behaving according to plan. You stare wildly at your daughters’ newly dyed blue hair and start shouting irrational orders about non-existent homework; you cannot understand your son’s stories about karate class and your partner’s mouth is moving but all you hear is blah-blah-blah…
- Confusion ensues when your laundry, food, and drinks are not served by staff like they are in your field reality. Your partner doesn’t seem to appreciate tips either?!
- You need endless snacks, drinks, and fried foods to satisfy unusual cravings.
- Everything is one big conspiracy that has been plotted to make you blow all your fuses……
Working Away: Your Work Reality Is Not ‘Normal’
Your day-to-day work experiences are deemed by anyone outside as highly disturbing and leave you strangely numb. These are seen as normal in your field station, right? These are symptoms of burnout or ‘combat fatigue’ that can also be seen in humanitarians, contractors, and logisticians that serve in remote, often hazardous conditions.
The home partner normally does understand that your work stresses have to come out. S/he is prepared for the stress-fest that has become part of the home-coming norm. So much so that the house is polished to perfection, and kids told to ‘be nice to Mummy / Daddy’. The pre-stress fest preparations add to the home-coming drama that unfolds. It takes a few hours, days or weeks to land back into ‘tick-tick’ normalcy again.
Working Away: Finding The Zen Zone
As much as your loved ones may understand you, they can sympathize but not emphasize as they have not experienced your ‘away’ reality.
You need to share with them that your job is having an impact on how you react – and that you need a bit of help to balance out your reactions now and again. Some tips to get to a calmer place can be a start.
10 Stress Reducing Tips
- Address the underlying causes of stress by talking to your loved ones. Try to show them pictures of what you see every day. It is essential that you also consider seeing a health professional if you think that you may be suffering from PTSD or chronic stress. They can help you far more effectively than you think.
- Relax by practicing mindfulness techniques, meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. Actively relaxing is an art that engages the powerful forces of the mind on the body. You can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer – it ain’t gonna help.
- Book yourself into a Spa or top hotel for a day or so just before coming home. This will pre home-coming relax attack will do you the world of good. Invite your partner to join you and share some time just the two of you to talk, breathe, relax, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach…
- Move your body. Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind. Take a walk, lift weights or practice Pilates. Moving to music makes it even better – so put on your headphones and go 🙂
- Optimize your nutrition. Clean up your diet from mind-robbing processed foods, alcohol, and refined sugars. Eat clean, nutritious foods that help you get back what you often lack after weeks on canteen food. It is a scientific fact that certain foods act as stress triggers, while others provide fantastic stress relief.
- Consider taking supplements that help to fight stress. Balancing stress response with vitamin C; B-complex vitamins (including B6 and B5); zinc; and most important, magnesium, which is a relaxation mineral. Add ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea, Siberian ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha that have powerful properties too. You can buy these online easily and even order them before you come home next time.
- Use heat therapy. Take a hot bath or a sauna to help your body deeply relax and turn on the relaxation response.
- Drawdown your social calendar in the first days/weeks at home. As much as friends and family want to see you, you need to understand yourself and reconnect with your inner family circle again.
- Build a community of like-minded. Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community. They are your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health and can be the real bridge builders as you swing in and out of this unusual existence.
- Most of all – be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to just be for a few days, to readjust, rekindle your realities, and also just sitting still. By gently moving back into the home mode, you enter a zen mode which also your family will appreciate.
Working Away: From Stress Fest to Zen Zone
Working away is a special kind of life. It takes its toll. The whole family is invoked and feel the on-off mode and swing shift ups and downs. You can make some changes to the stress fest syndrome. You can make your home-coming more of a zen zone experience. It comes down to changing a few beliefs and breaking patterns.
- Examine your behavior, listen to yourself and learn to respond more gently.
- By addressing your attitude, and responses to stress you will enable yourself to cope.
- By reframing your point of view you also reduce stress. You may not be someone who wants to change?
- Look at how those around you react to your stress fest manifestations, and think again. Deep breathing may not sound sane to you – but it actually works. You do it every minute, so why not do it purposefully to draw down the stress monster?
Working Away Return: 2 Way Stress
Think of your close family. As much as they want to have you back home – they also get stressed by your reactions.
They want to see you – not just the shell that you represent when all your stress levels are on high. This can be helped with mindfulness techniques, health professionals and there are some very good books on Amazon.co.uk the subject too. Be gentle, kind and more aware of your reactions – that opens the door to the zen zone.
What are your experiences with working away and coming home stress? Comment, share and let us know. Follow The GOODista for more on field life, lifestyle changes you can do, and how to Feel, Be and Do Good.
Related and Recommended:
- The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout – Psychology Today
- Breathing Techniques and Benefits – A Guide – groom and style
- Helping The Helpers – Health and Human Rights Info
- Wellness Your Way: How To Find Flow – thegoodista.com
- Aid Workers, Too, Suffering Post-Traumatic Stress – National Geographic
- The Effects of Stress – Nurselands
- Stress Tips: Calm Your Mind, Heal Your Body – Dr. Mark Hyman
- 15 Rules to Live by for Optimal Health – musclezone.com
- Benefits of Mindfulness – Helpguide.org
- Stress Fighting Foods – Faqs.org
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