My working partner and I are products of hustle culture. Our weekly schedule includes working 10 hours a day, changing local trains to head back home, freshening up, and working some more. Needless to say, there’s very less ‘us-time’. We bring workplace issues back home, and that leads to petty quarrels too. In all this, how do we support each other’s mental health? How do we take the load off our working partner?
“There are too many things happening at work; and I hardly want to share because you’re too busy meeting work targets. I don’t want to put my problems on you while you’re already stressed!”, my frustrated partner said the other day.
We’re so busy chasing deadlines and trying to outdo ourselves at work that we often forget our partner is going through the same struggles too. But, when saturation hit its peak a couple of days ago, we decided to consciously support each other’s mental health.
“Two careers can mean twice the stress, but it can also mean twice the empathy and understanding. Helping your partner learn to cope with stress helps you cope with it better, too. “When a couple is good at managing stress, it makes them more resilient as individuals”, says Jennifer Petriglieri, assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD.
What’s the best thing to say to your partner when they start complaining about work? What should you not say? How do you make them feel seen and heard? Is there a way to help them see things differently?
After a few hits and misses, my partner and I identified tricks that worked for us as a couple. So, if you’re trying to make an effort too, here are some ways to support your working partner’s mental health!
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How to support your working partner’s mental health
1. Be a good listener
When our partner gets home and begins recounting a horrible work day, many of us have a tendency to only ‘half-listen’ to them. Your partner might feel ignored, and this may lead to misunderstandings in a relationship.
Validate your partner’s feelings by trying to give them your undivided attention, being mentally present, and actually hearing them out without interrupting. This is so important, because when the tables are turned, you want to be heard too, right?
2. There’s no need to always be a problem-solver
More often than not, we try to fix the problems someone shares with us. But it’s quite likely that your partner just needs to rant for five minutes and get something off their chest.
Sometimes, by trying too hard, we may end up giving the wrong advice or our words may seem too harsh at that point of time. Instead, nod your head in support and comfort them. You don’t always need to be a problem solver.
3. Express empathy more often
Life is awfully busy, and we barely get any time for self-love. Expressing love and compassion towards your working partner may seem like a lot of work; but it's this work that makes the relationship thrive.
Your partner needs more love on the most harrowing days, and it can be super comforting for them to know that they have someone who's going to be there for them no matter what. So if you're stuck on what to say or do, just tell your partner that you’ll have their back, and see how it brightens their mood.
Compliment them for their successes and glorify their victories - no matter how small- because, in the end, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
4. Do something thoughtful for them
I recently skipped a deadline at work and beat myself to death because of it. My partner was as tired and frustrated as I was, but he still chose to send over my favorite comforting soup and created a stress-busting playlist on Spotify for me. Ours is a long-distance relationship, so these thoughtful gestures help float the boat.
Understand your partner’s love language, so that you exactly know what cheers them up or is good for their mental health.
Whip up a meal, take them for a long drive, or screen their favorite film or series to nurture the relationship. If you are staying together and sharing home responsibilities, try to take things off their plate when they’re already struggling to solve workplace problems.
5. Never assume that they’re upset because of you
Very recently, I kept brooding about my partner being upset or annoyed with me, when he was only having a bad day at work. He could not communicate it to me because he thought I would overreact and blame myself for him being gloomy - which I actually did.
The lesson I learnt here was that if your working partner is stressed, it's better to first ask them why. If they do not open up, try to give them some space and time to do so, without jumping into conclusions or blaming yourself for their mental health. This will only lead to stretched arguments or unnecessary fights, and add fuel to the fire.
6. Love yourself first so you can love them right
You cannot pour from an empty cup. It is impossible to treat someone right if you’re not sprinkling enough self-love on your own mental health. How will you be a good listener, do thoughtful things, or express compassion to your working partner if you’re unhappy?
If your partner’s stress is causing you stress too, it’s important to make self-care a top priority and fix your mood before fixing your working partner’s mood.
Resort to therapy, meditation, or some physical or creative activity that acts as a stressbuster for you. Also, have at least one person outside your relationship to vent to about what is happening with your partner. You will not only be tending to your own needs, but you’re less likely to add additional stress to your partner’s already-increased stress levels.
7. Encourage your partner to seek therapy
You can’t always be the one to “save” your partner. If their stress level is making it difficult for them to function or causing high levels of anxiety or depression, it’s time to seek therapy - especially if it’s affecting your relationship.
If things are spiraling out of control, one of the most generous things you can do is to help your partner recognise this, and come up with a compassionate and effective plan to tackle the stress by seeking external help. They might also be able to open up better in front of an unknown person.
The bottom line? It’s important to remember that all of us react differently to stress. Offering a non-judgmental point of view laced with empathy and care will strengthen your relationship if both of you are working your days away.
Every individual has different triggers at work (and life can get equally challenging). Follow these easy hacks to support your working partner’s mental health to be able to work your way through the pool of stress!
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