Work and rest are partners, not competitors. The better “rested” you are, the more energy and creativity you’ll bring into your work.
But why do so few of us really know how to rest and recharge at the end of the workday?
The devil is in the details, but it’s important to define rest here. True rest – the type that makes you feel energized, inspired, and ready to take on the world – requires three key elements: relaxing your mind, body, and expectations.
However, with the overwhelmingly crazy nature of our workdays, accomplishing each of these three is a rather daunting task. And the truth is, many of us take our job stresses home without even realizing it.
From the minute we clock out until the next morning when we punch in – when we are supposed to be resting and enjoying our non-work lives – we often let job stress seep in and take the most out of our time.
In this article, we will walk you through how you may have been unwittingly magnifying job stress and help you gain a clearer understanding of how to leave work at work. We’ll also identify quick ways to fight off stress and have a relaxing rest after a workday.
In what ways do we take work home?
After a long day at work, many of us find ourselves taking our job stress with us as we interact with our friends, children, or significant others.
If we’re not careful, we inadvertently allow our work stress to become home stress…often at the expense of our relationships or our health.
Here are (often subtle) ways that we do it:
- We think about stress during our commute. Driving home from work could be an exciting time to enjoy the freedom of being off the clock, but all too often, we choose to take it as a time to ruminate about the stresses of the day and think about our frustrations at work and everything else that’s weighing on our shoulders.
The problem is that this can exaggerate our stress levels, making them seem higher after the commute home than they were at the end of the workday.
- We vent about our work stress to our loved ones. Complaining about work to a loved one may feel good at the moment, but it can take a toll over time. While bottling your feelings up isn’t any good for you either, when you spend what could have been quality time with loved ones just focused on all the stresses of the day, you lose more of your day to job stress. The more time that you focus on work off of work, the less time you are being mindful and present, hence, enjoying the moment.
- We worry about work instead of relaxing. Working in a job that requires constant troubleshooting or facing a heavy load of stress makes it difficult to shut off your “brainstorming” mind when you leave work. This is especially true for those working from home: our brains are always in the “finding solutions mode” that it can become hard for us to enjoy our personal lives.
Now that we have identified some of the common ways we take our work stress home, it’s imperative to ask ourselves…
How do we leave work at work?
Picture this: You’ve finally gotten into bed (and your back is thanking you for it), but all of a sudden your mind races with all the unfinished tasks, to-dos, and conflicts at work. You know you have to just shrug them off, but how?
It’s impossible to simply tell yourself to “just relax and sleep it off.” These are the thoughts you push aside when watching TV or eating dinner with family or friends but always seem to pop up as soon as you try to fall asleep.
There are ways to help you detach from work the moment you clock out.
- Tie up loose ends before you leave. Prepare yourself before leaving work. Try preparing a to-do list for yourself for when you get back the next day.
This allows you to leave with the comfort of knowing that things are taken care of as much as they can be until tomorrow, and it also helps you come in the next day and feel focused.
- Create a post-work ritual. Routine tells the body what to do. This is the reason children need to have a bedtime ritual before falling asleep. We may be too old for bedtime stories, but setting up a ritual can make a huge difference in our day.
For instance, consider your commute home as a ritual to separate work from personal time. You may make your own ritual to turn your “work brain” off too. It can be by changing clothes (even if you’re changing from one set of pajamas into another), playing specific music (to end the day), or even taking a warm shower. Try out new things and see what suits you best. If a specific routine works for you, keep doing it.
- Enjoy your commute home. With some planning, you can make your commute home a relaxing (read: rewarding) experience rather than just another hurdle to leap from before you can relax. If you’re into it, listen to audiobooks, either fiction (for fun) or nonfiction (in an area where you’d like to grow).
Let your favorite Spotify playlist entertain you. Or better yet, take this time to mentally count everything you have to be grateful for. This can help you get into a more positive frame of mind and prime you to be more appreciative of the little things in life that come free of charge.
Ways To Make Your Home A Place To Relax
Your home is your haven from stress. With deliberate planning and mindset shifting, it will soon become easier to let your job stress melt away just by getting home.
- Create a soothing home environment for yourself. Your home should feel like a retreat away from the stressors of the world. One of the best ways to have a home environment that soothes your stress rather than making you feel more tired is decluttering.
Studies have shown that clutter has a subtle but very real effect on our stress levels. Make your bed every morning before leaving your room. Make sure the dishes are washed and laundry is put away before starting work. If you’re working from home, set up a designated work zone that’s reserved just for work and make another space to be used for relaxation (like your couch or bed).
- Give in to small pleasures. Treat yourself by getting more of those little things in life that can draw a smile on your face. These are those “small pleasures” that instantly help lift your mood. It can be a cup of tea, watching your favorite Ted Talk, playing with your furry friend, a warm bath, or anything else that can raise your spirits.
Go on, indulge — you deserve it.
- Cultivate mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, can increase your ability to maintain an “at this present moment” perspective. In turn, this can help relieve post-job stress as well as build your resilience toward stress in the long run.
- Sleep tight. There’s still no better way to recharge your energy than to get a good night’s sleep. Though this might be challenging for many of us, its benefits are enormous. Turn off your gadgets at least half an hour before bedtime and ensure that your bedroom is free from distractions that prevent you from sleeping. When you’re in bed, be there to sleep.
- Find support. If you need to talk stressful things out before you can let go of them, it helps to have a supportive person who will make you feel heard and help you to let go of the stress. Also, if you are someone who finds it hard to organize your schedules and or stick to them (which can highly contribute to stress), find a time management partner.
A time management and accountability partner can be someone who gently reminds you to refocus your thoughts and energy if you start getting bogged down by stressful thoughts of work.
Ultimately, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by job stress, or you are experiencing chronic stress, consulting a professional — a counselor or mental health provider — should be your top priority.
Take a Break from Tech, Give Time to Your Passions
As reflected from the above-suggested activities, going on a mini daily tech detox may just be what you need to shed some of that work-related stress.
Spend time on something else that can help you get your mind off of those worrisome workday woes.
It may sound cliché, but there are still more important things in life outside of your work!
Take that long walk, return that call to your brother, book that weekend trip with your significant other, and most of all, leave that work stress at work.
Don’t worry, when you come back — it’s still there.
Have a stress-free life!