How To Switch Off From Work (Without Turning To The Bottle)
It’s Tuesday evening. You’ve had another day from HELL. And you’re expecting a repeat performance tomorrow. How on earth can you switch off from work so you can enjoy your few hours outside of the office?
Here are some tips on how you can successfully separate work from your “non-work life”. And if you don’t recognise the concept of a “non-work life”, then CALL ME – we need to talk.
The Bad News
• A 2012 survey found that out of 1,000 employees:
– 50% checked emails while in bed
– 57% read work emails during family time
– 40% continued to work after 10pm
– 38% read work emails at the dinner table
• Another 2012 study found that people who work more 11 hours a day have a more-than-doubled-risk of a major depressive episode.
• A health psychologist at Surrey University found between two-thirds and three-quarters of people say they find it “difficult to unwind after work.” A full quarter said they think about work-related issues in their leisure time, including holidays, weekends and extended breaks.
• If you REALLY want to switch off, regularly checking emails outside of the office will not get you there. Of course, doing additional work at home may sometimes be necessary. If it’s not, then I urge you to consider how much of your life you are prepared to sacrifice for your job.
• As tempting as it is to slump in front of the TV as a way to relax, it won’t serve as a long-term mood enhancer if this is your daily method of switching off from work.
• Reaching for that second glass…third glass…fourth glass of wine as a stress-reliever may appear to help…in the moment. But over time, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health. So while alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. And make stress harder to deal with.
So you’re at home and you can’t stop thinking about work. First: identify whether this is problem-solving or ruminating. If it is the former, then process this. And then move on. If the latter, then you’re unnecessarily living in the past, which is also the case when you’re worrying about what may happen tomorrow. Successfully switching off from work at home is achieved when you focus on the present. Problem solved?! Sadly, staying present is an art in itself. And assuming you’re not a jedi, zen monk or similar, it’s very likely your monkey-mind will thwart any attempts to focus on the now. But that’s ok. Try not to beat yourself up about it. Instead, try the following…
How To Help Yourself Stay Present
• Observe where your mind has drifted off. And then bring it back to the present, gently. Annnnnnd…repeat.
• Stop whatever you’re doing. And take one big belly breath. Stay focusing on your breath just for a few seconds. Taking a pause like this is an excellent way of grounding yourself and gaining perspective when thoughts are spiralling out of control.
• Focus on what you’re experiencing in that moment. What do you hear…see…smell?
• Meditation is powerful training for your mind to stay more focused. I highly recommend using the ‘Headspace’ app for this.
Take Charge Of Your Life
• Get a hobby. Go for a run. Cook a nice meal. Spend time in the garden. Meditate. Find out whatever makes you feel alive and go do it. If you don’t make an effort to counteract stress with something different, your mind is more likely to quickly leap back to work. And sometimes the best tonic may be to simply rest – it’s how you rest that’s important.
• Consider additional support: speaking regularly to an outside person like a life-coach, therapist or mentor can help you implement stress-management practices and take control of your life.
• And lastly: life is full of ebbs and flows. It is constantly changing. Remember this when you’re going through a particularly stressful or busy period. You’ll get through it. But making some life changes may make all the difference…