Many jobs are demanding and can take a toll on you. As a result, it can be almost impossible to switch off and you may find work seeping back into your thoughts even when you are not on the clock. This can be detrimental to your emotional and physical health as well as damaging to your personal relationships.
When you are not at work, ideally you want to be relaxed and not stressed or frazzled. So, the first step is to clarify – what is stress? Simply, it is the absence of relaxation.
The effects of stress are more than just mental exhaustion; It can affect physical health too. Many studies have looked at the connection between stress and high blood pressure, low immunity, depression, anxiety, self-medication, and gut issues. Instead of enjoying and making the most of our lives outside of work, we find ourselves hypervigilant and constantly worrying about work related issues. Some find themselves feeling guilty about relaxing or that relaxation is in fact laziness. However, relaxation, in whatever form works for you, is a necessary and highly important part of health. If you run, or sit in a hammock and read to relax, this is a personal choice and neither is lazy. Resting the mind is as important as resting the body and should be taken seriously because neglecting this area of your life can actually lead to exhaustion, which will make you less productive at work, not more.
Leaving work at work can decrease stress levels and increases overall happiness. So what are the ways we take work home and how can we avoid doing it?
1. The Commute home
The trip home should be a chance to decompress and release some tension from the day. Instead of sitting on the train, bus, or in the driver's seat going over what you haven’t accomplished or the problems you cant solve, try the following steps to leave work at work.
Schedule the last five or ten minutes of work to write a to-do list for the next morning. This will do a few things for you: you will leave work with a clear plan of what you have to do the next day, and you will not worry about forgetting a task you didn’t complete today. You are essentially “dumping” the contents of your work brain onto paper and leaving it at work. You will walk into work the next day knowing what you need to achieve and will not be as worried about forgetting something. List even the simplest of tasks and leave it front and center on your desk or in your locker. You will feel more organized and like you are leaving the worry right there on the paper. Tie up loose ends if you can, but if this isn’t possible put it on your list.
Find a way to make the commute home enjoyable. Pop in your earphones or turn on the radio and listen to music that matches the mood you WANT to be in. Music has the power to transport and reform a mood, so listen to soothing or uplifting music. What that is to you is a personal choice. Perhaps a podcast, comedy standup, or audiobook will distract and redirect your mind. Choose something that either soothes, uplifts, encourages laugher, or breaks the mind out of work thoughts into other paths.
It’s a well-known fact that exercise assists in stress relief. It keeps the body healthy and releases serotonin, also known as the “feel-good” hormone. Exercise looks different to everyone, so choose an activity that you enjoy and look forward to. One suggestion is to go for a short walk whenever you have a break or when you get home from work. Find a form of exercise that suits your personality and you get enjoyment from. That could be a dance class a few days a week, running with the dog, kicking a ball with the kids, swimming, weight lifting, or swimming. This really is a personal preference. Some enjoy pushing hard, some enjoy a slow peaceful hatha yoga flow. Be it 15 minutes or an hour, the benefits to relieving stress are scientifically proven. So get that body moving and run, dance, or shake that stress right out.
3. Treat Yourself
This is where you need to find your pleasure or happiness boosters. From sitting and having a simple cup of tea to playing fetch with your dog, enjoying a hobby, or simply sitting on the grass and listening to music. This is a choice you know will give you those feel-good vibes and that gentle smile on your face.
One suggestion is to indulge in personal massage. Simply rubbing oil of your choice on your hands, shoulders, or legs and massaging it in can be a deeply cleansing routine. A good self hand or shoulder massage releases tension and can have an instant effect on mood and relaxation levels.
Although mindfulness seems to be a new cool catchphrase these days, it has been practiced for thousands of years by many cultures. And there is great reason for that. Practicing mindfulness not only assists in dealing with current stress but can train your mind in such a way that future stress will not have the impact it once did. It's simple. Learning to chill out and quiet a busy, chatty brain teaches the brain to chill out and not chatter. Learning to calm brain makes you a calmer person overall, meaning that the skill to remain in the present, build resilience to stress, and therefore deal with future stress is cultivated. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as listening to a ten-minute audio meditation, practicing breathing exercises, or a simple yoga routine at home.
5. Sensory Stimulation
This can be a very simple thing such as taking a long hot shower or sinking into a warm bath with essential oils. Aromas and warm sensations can assist in aches, pains, and tension release. Certain oils may have an aroma that can recall memories of good times. Have you ever smelt a perfume your mother or grandmother wore and instantly been taken to a memory that made you feel safe or happy? Use the same oil or scent for relaxing baths or in a shower bomb to form an aromatic memory. Your brain forms the habit of becoming relaxed and at peace when that scent is detected. The main thing is to form a pattern or habit that teaches you to relax. Schedule your relaxation and make it a priority.
Disconnection from work outside of hours will allow you to be a happier, healthier, and more productive. Find what works for you and remember, relaxation is not laziness, it is an essential and important habit that leads to a productive, healthy, and necessary balance in a busy life.
Photo credit: Antoine Rault