One of the hardest things about supporting a husband with his career is figuring out how to help him when things at work get hard. When the stress starts to mount and he feels overwhelmed, what can you do? I mean, it’s not like you can go to his workplace and do his work for him, right? Or march in there and tell-off that jerk of a boss? Even though you really, really wish you could!

That’s one of the hardest things for me. My DrH deals with work stress a LOT during his medical residency and I struggle with feelings of helplessness sometimes. There is really nothing I can do to actually FIX the problem. I cannot lessen his work hours or jump in there to help with the insane amount of patients he has to take care of.

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is also a resident wife. One of the things she said that is the hardest right now is her DrH comes home torn down from work. He has some rude chiefs and attendings that treat him like an idiot. So of course he comes home burned out and at a low point. She said she feels the same feelings of helplessness that I feel when my DrH is having a hard time at work.

My conversation with her got me thinking that this is probably a common problem of all married couples, and doctor’s wives are no exception. I decided to come up with a list of some of the ways I do try to alleviate my DrH’s work stress, even though I can’t fix the actual problem. Hopefully these give you some ideas of how you can help your husband when he is feeling overwhelmed at work. 

work-related stress

1.  Lend a Listening Ear

Your husband is stressed at work but he can’t talk about it at work. At work he has no way to decompress. He comes home feeling down, beaten up, and has all this pent-up frustration.

If he wants to talk, lend a listening ear. Ask him what is stressing him at work, and then just LISTEN. Don’t worry about fixing it or finding solutions. Just listen.

But also remember that your husband also may NOT want to talk. If he doesn’t want to, don’t press it. That’s something that drives my husband nutso. I want him to talk about it because I know he probably needs to, but sometimes he isn’t feeling it. Just respect the fact that he may not want to talk at the moment and you can try a different time.

2. Be Encouraging

Be encouraging to your husband. In fact, be OVERLY encouraging. Remind him of how capable he is. Remind him that he can do this job and that he can handle whatever it throws at him. Show him that you believe in his abilities and that you have so much confidence in him.

Also remind him of the amazing things he is doing OUTSIDE of work. Remind him of what an amazing husband and father he is. Remind him how much the kids love him and how they live for the time when he walks in that front door. He needs your encouragement more than ever.

3. Make Home a Good Place to Be

Try your best to make home an AMAZING place to be. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, of course, but put some extra effort into it when your husband is feeling the pressures from work. Try keeping the house clean and make some of his favorite meals for him. Yeah, things fall by the wayside, but any efforts you can do to make your home a haven will mean the world to him.

My husband loves food. And I know, most of you are thinking, “Well duh, what guy doesn’t?” No, but my DrH really, REALLY loves it. A nice home-cooked meal speaks volumes to him, so when the pressures of work are mounting I make sure to include some of his favorite meals in my menu planning. He always appreciates it so much and this way I feel like I am doing SOMETHING to help him, even if it’s a little something.

4. Understand People Have Their Different Ways of Reacting and Coping

When your DrH is feeling overwhelmed at work, just remember that his way of reacting to stress and coping with it may be way different than you. And that’s ok! He may be grumpy and withdraw into himself. He may seem depressed and want to watch ESPN all day. He may just be more quiet and tired than usual and want to sleep all of the time.

I know I have to remind myself of this all of the time. My way of reacting to stress and coping is to cry (a lot) and then to talk about it with someone close to me – either my DrH, my mom, or a close friend. But my DrH has more of the grumpy, doesn’t-want-to-talk kind of coping. I have learned I need to accept his way of coping (even if I don’t agree with it all of the time) and just love and accept him for where he is right now.

5. Have Realistic Expectations

When your spouse is struggling with work-related stress, have realistic expectations of him. If he is maxed out at work than he obviously isn’t going to be able to do as much as he used to. Don’t expect him to be his normal, happy, cheery self. Stress really takes its toll on a person, so just adjust your expectations accordingly.

If he normally helps put the kids to bed every night, maybe tell him he can have the night off tonight. Or if he normally helps with dishes after dinner let him go rest on the couch instead. He can be up and at ‘em again when things calm down or when he has a better day.

6. Involve Him Still at Home

With the above being said, don’t completely cut him out of helping around the home. Yes, adjust your expectations of him, but don’t have NO expectations. You should still ask him for help at times. Helping someone else and serving others in his family can help get his mind off of work and remind him that work isn’t the ONLY important thing. It can remind him that even if he may feel like he is not doing great in his career at the moment, at least he is still an incredible husband and father. Involving him at home can help him see the bigger picture and remind him that work isn’t everything.

7. Take Care of Yourself

When your husband is stressed-out and maxed out, it can get really hard for you. You feel like there is nothing you can do to help him. You can’t fix the problems at work, and the feelings of helplessness can really get you down. Not to mention that when your husband is stressed, the negativity he brings home affects the whole family.

Remember to take care of yourself too or you will get burned out fast. Take a nap. Let a friend take your kids for the morning. Do something you really enjoy. Remember to exercise and get enough sleep. If the house isn’t perfectly clean just let it go. Do your best but be patient with yourself. His stress takes it out of you too, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.

8. Love Your Husband Using His Love Language

When your husband is stressed out at work, this is the time to show up for him using his love language. If his love language is physical touch, then just ladle on the affection. And I’m not just talking about intimacy (although that definitely helps too!), but the simple things. A hug, a back rub, or extra snuggles can go a long way towards helping him relax and let go of some of that stress.

If his love language is service, you could make his favorite meal, wash his car for him, or finish that project for him that’s been driving him crazy. You get the idea. If you know your husband’s love language, just love him in the language he understands best.

9. Remember It Will Get Better

As far as work stress goes, just remember it will get better. His hours may lighten up once this deadline at work is over or once the rotation he is on changes. Things can change, often for the better.

However, sometimes things at work themselves might not change. Your DrH may still have a super critical attending or he may still have to work insane hours. But he will adjust to the demands of his job and learn how to cope with it. He will get better at managing his stress.

Sometimes the above ideas work and they do end up helping my husband with his work stress, and sometimes they honestly don’t. Sometimes you just have to endure through the hard times with your husband until it passes. But give some of these ideas a shot – you never know until you try.

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