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Keep 'em separated: How not to bring your work stress home with you

Michael Shulman
(ONOKY – Eric Audras / Getty Images)

Even though you may have physically clocked out from work, your mind may still be consumed with the bad day you had at the office.

But the best way to prevent your mood from spilling over may be a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and adequate sleep, according to a recent study.

The research looked at the sleep and exercise patterns of nearly 120 MBA students with full-time jobs. The participants were asked to fill out a survey and wear activity monitors for a week. The people who lived with them were then asked to submit their own follow-up survey.

The study found that workers who clocked in an average of more 10,900 steps were less likely to “perpetuate abuse at home” than those who took less than 7,000.

10,000 steps a day is generally considered a “reasonable” amount for healthy adults

But, according to Statistics Canada, only about one-third of Canadian men and women reach this target. Men average about 9,500, while women get about 8,400.

“Research shows employees who are mistreated at work are likely to engage in similar behaviours at home,” Shannon Taylor, one of the authors of the paper and professor of business management at the University of Central Florida, said in a press release.

“If they’ve been belittled or insulted or insulted by a supervisor, they tend to vent their frustrations on members of their household. Our study show that happens they’re too tired to regulate their behaviour,” she added, noting the importance of getting adequate sleep.

StatsCan said quantifying a “good night’s sleep” is tricky, but many experts recommend that adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours to feel “refreshed.”

On the average work weeknights, Canadians get about eight hours and six minutes of sleep. 

The study also found that workers who burn an average of an additional 587 calories can “reduce the harmful effects of mistreatment” and make them more likely to leave it at the door when they get home.

And, according to the researchers, it would only take minor lifestyle changes to make a big difference at home.

The aforementioned types of gains can be achieved through an hour of swimming or a brisk 90-minute walk.

“We think exercise acts as a counterbalance, because it promotes healthy brain functions needed to properly regulate emotions and behaviour,” said Larissa Barber, the study’s lead author and psychologist at Northern Illinois University.