Dear Doctor,

My husband works long hours and does very well for the family. But I worry about his stress level, even though he seems to handle all of the demands placed on him. When he is home, he enjoys our time as a family. The children adore him, but wish he could spend more time with them. Can stress lead to psychological problems? I am concerned.

Worried Wife 

Dear Wife,

Stress has many facets and can affect people differently depending on personality type.

There is such a thing as “eustress.” The Greek stem “eu” means good or pleasant. Let’s assume an individual likes demanding work and finds it enjoyable. He or she excels in stressful environments and though the tasks may be herculean, the individual thrives. This kind of stress does not appear, over time, to cause physical harm.

Harmful stress has definite emotional and physical features. The demands are difficult to resolve, and the tasks are onerous and endless. When someone experiences a kind of chronic and hurtful discontent and frustration, such stress has a chorus of somatic sequelae. The nervous system responds. Hormones do harm, cortisol being one of the damaging ones.

Your husband sounds as if he loves what he does. The deeper issue is the eventual regret he may have over not enjoying the trip of life. He would do with some time to smell the flowers. Plan some events and opportunities to have fun with as family. Don’t nag, but encourage.

Someday in the future, he will remember those times and likely won’t say, “I am so happy I spent more time at the office.”

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at lllrsn@comcast.net.

 

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