Dear Dr. Julie: My boss drives me crazy and when I get home from work I find that I take it out on my husband. I'm cranky with him and he doesn't deserve to be treated that way. What can I do?
Dear Unintentionally Cranky: I think we've all been in this situation! Our external circumstances can often cause us to feel bad in a way that is hard to shake off. While we'd like to be unaffected in the first place, the next best thing would be to quickly switch out of it so we don't take it out on our loved ones. But, it doesn't work that way.
The negative state generated by your boss (or any other disturbing situation) lives in your body--you can't just think your way out of it.
It takes work to let it go because you've gotten hooked or attached to your negative state. When you are hooked by a reaction, you think about it, talk about it, worry about it and in that process amplify it, making it a stronger physical presence in your mind and body.
You need time to transition out of the negative state into a more positive, intentional state. Take the time between leaving work and getting home or time at home where you are by yourself to settle down and set an intention for how you want to relate to your husband.
Definitely talk with your husband about the need for transition time and your goal of not taking your negative emotional state out on him. He'll be totally on board for that!!
Then, during the transition time focus on more pleasant situations or activities and move your body in a way that is different from the way you move at work. Changing how you move changes the state of your body quicker than trying to think your way out of it.
Different movements to consider would include:
Definitely avoid ruminating about what's happening at work because that will reinforce the negative state. If you find it difficult to stop worrying, set up an appointment to talk about what's bothering you with a friend, trusted co-worker, or your therapist and tell yourself not to worry until then. Having a plan to address it at a specific time in the future will allow your mind to let it go for now.
Taking the time to transition thoughtfully from one physical/emotional state to another is a form of mindfulness. The book, "Mindfulness: An 8-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World" is a great resource.
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