Leaving Work at Work—Even When You Live Where You Work
Do you have a hard time leaving work at work? You’re not alone. Many people feel stuck in the “grind” where one work day bleeds into the next without any time to relax and reset. Continual stress without a break to decompress leads to burnout.
Morning routines get a lot of attention, but consider creating an evening routine with activities that help you unwind from the workday. Here are a few things to consider adding to your schedule after work.
Use your commute (or lack of) to transition your mind from work to home.
If you’re stuck in traffic you may need to find a way to make your commute a way to destress instead of another stress on top of your day. Try saving your favorite podcasts or interesting audiobooks for your commute so you have something to look forward to. Turn up the radio or your favorite playlist and sing out loud. Scientists say singing has a calming, but energizing effect on people. What better way to both unwind and get pumped for whatever you doing after work than some car karaoke?
If you’re on public transportation consider talking to the person next to you. Small social interactions can help boost your mood. As you focus on other people you get a break from focusing on your own stresses. It could be just the thing to reset after a day at work.
No commute? No problem.
If you use the same room or the same computer for work and after work activities be sure to leave before you come back to do your non-work activities. Get up, stretch, get something to eat, do something before you dive into non-work activities. Take a walk outside or at least do a lap around your home. Act as though you have a commute and take 10-15 minutes to yourself to decompress. This will help your brain separate work mode from home mode.
Take inventory of what you need to do tomorrow before you sign off.
You’ll be able to avoid those pressing thoughts of, “did I forget something?” if you write down anything that you weren’t able to get to today. The thing about a typical workday is that there’s always more work to do tomorrow. If you’ve done all you can in a day, let the rest go.
As revealed by two experiments, you need to stop thinking about one task in order to fully transition your attention to the next task. By writing down any leftover tasks, you can essentially wrap up those tasks for the day instead of feeling like you’re leaving something undone. Then move on so you can focus on your home life.
Try a hobby that is truly distracting.
At the end of a long day you may want to lay down, watch TV, or “veg out.” But it may be easier to detach from the workday when you do an activity that requires you to be fully engaged like painting, crafting, playing a sport, dancing, or playing with your kids. It’s much easier to think about something else than to try and think about nothing.
Choose hobbies or activities that have real meaning to you. It doesn’t have to be something complicated, but if an activity connects to you on a personal level it is more likely to reduce stress and create positive feelings. While volunteering after work may just feel like more work, if you find an organization or program you connect with it may be just the thing you need to unwind.
Shake it off.
Moving your body decreases stress. It can be anything from walking the dog to dancing in your living room. You don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive equipment, just move. Gardening, yoga, jumping jacks, anything that you enjoy doing.
Stress can build up during the day without you even knowing it and exercising reduces stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. So shake off that stress of the day–literally–by getting your body moving, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
Take a break.
Remember to take breaks. Without a commute or a coworker distracting you or the ability to linger after a meeting you may be working more hours than you normally did in the office. Plus, breaks make you more productive and more creative. Getting in the habit of taking meaningful breaks during the day to temporarily think about something other than work will help you disengage from work when you leave for the day.
Remember to look outside.
This can be hard in winter months, but if you’re working from home try and get outside while the sun is still up. Or at the very least spend some time looking out the window. Staring at a screen all day causes fatigue, so take a break from the screen and get some natural light.
Check in with your people.
Don’t forget to check in on your teammates. You may think that by now everyone has adjusted to working from home or the extra precautions and stress of dealing with COVID-19 at work, but a lot of people are still suffering from burnout and fatigue. Share the above tips for managing stress and let them know you’re there to help.
Remember that feeling stress is normal, but it can have negative effects both physically and mentally, so be sure and develop routines to help you destress.