How to Detach from Work… (and Reconnect with Yourself)
Do you ever find it hard to switch off after work?
Or feel guilty, when you do eventually unplug?
Or do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to add one more task to your notes app?
Well, you’re certainly not alone.
We often struggle to detach from our work because we want to be seen as good, hardworking employees who have what it takes to succeed. We constantly check our work emails, and take work-related calls long after the office has shut. After all, the chance of a career promotion may be riding on it.
Clearly, there are some instances when we do need to answer a work call, or check those emails, but the downside of a prolonged pattern of behaviour means that our stress level rise, and the risk of mental and physical burnout becomes more probable. So if our work life doesn’t suffer, then our home life certainly does, as we increasingly detach from our own families and friends. Hence the importance of having a balanced life where our work doesn’t erode the core of our home and family life.
The Benefits of Powering Down.
Evidence suggests that regularly detaching from work is crucial to helping us thrive under stressful conditions. Studies found that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience fewer symptoms of psychological strain, without being less engaged while at work.
In other words, when we detach, we come back stronger and are more effective. So, that promotion you’re thriving for may very well depend on your ability to detach from work!
So how do we do it?
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including YOU.
Anne Lamott – Activist, speaker, teacher
Detach while still at work
Having regular breaks – like a ten minute break every couple of hours, to make a cuppa, or have a natter with a colleague helps me recharge my energy. I make the effort to have at least a half –hour lunch away from my desk, and where possible I take a weekly ‘wellbeing hour’ where I go out and eat lunch in the park, and read a book or listen to music. The only rule I have is not to run errands such as banking, or grocery shopping. Shoe shopping however is fair game!
Whatever you do, DO NOT BRING WORK HOME WITH YOU.
Don’t email yourself work stuff to ‘quickly finish off at home’. You might think you’ll just glance over it, but in reality you’ll get sucked back into work mode checking other inconsequential emails while on home time. That quick ’10 minutes’ easily turns into ‘I’m nearly done’, and before you know it, it’s actually 10:10 pm and you’ve missed the beginning of the new Will & Grace! If you can’t complete your workload at the office, then those remaining tasks will just have to roll over on tomorrow’s “To Do” list.
Trust me – the tasks will wait for you… they’re not going anywhere!
Detach while you commute
It helps to switch your train of thoughts from work to something else. Or to do something unrelated to your work pattern. For instance, if I’ve been on the phone all day at work, then I’d read something instead like the evening newspaper. If I’ve been on my computer screen all day, I’d listen to music on my iPhone or activate the mindful commuting exercise on my ‘Headspace’ app. https://www.headspace.com/
If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.
Detach before dinner
Dump your work laptop and phone in a cupboard never to be seen again till the morning. The expression ‘out of sight-out of mind’ is a really good thing in this case.
So, it’s very easy to get home and plonk down in front of the television and watch back-to-back programmes, while eating your dinner on your lap. Frankly, sometimes I love doing this! Nothing zones you out quite like mindless TV, but if you are mentally tired, then sitting down watching TV for three hours, especially if you’ve been starring at a computer screen all day, may not be effective in helping you unwind properly.
On days when I’m not meeting friends for dinner after work, when I get in, I’d pull up a chair near my living room window, with no TV on, and just sit for 15 minutes. I’d watch the world go by as I reflect on my day and gradually shift my thoughts to my plans for the evening. I find this a good way to mentally shift from work mode to home mode. Doing some exercise like running or going to the gym is a great way to switch from work to home mode.
Set some boundaries
As more and more of us work in this new global and connected world, it important to let other people know what to expect from us. Other people can’t read our minds, and work times vary just as dinner times vary across the world. So do let your colleagues know that you will be unavailable after a certain time. It’s important to set boundaries, let people know what they are and stick to them.
When on annual leave… Do Nothing!
Studies suggests that sitting back and doing nothing can boost your skills, productivity and commitment. As simple as this sounds, it’s actually very difficult for many of us to fully switch off and do nothing. So, if you’re on annual leave but not actually going away on a ‘holiday’ or ‘vacation’, it can be hard to switch off from work. If literally doing nothing scares you, then plan activities to do while you are away from work. Go to see a show, or to an art gallery, or clear out that wardrobe you’ve been promising to do for ages. These activities will help you detach from work, allowing you to focus on yourself. You never know, your next work-related inspiration could come from one of them!
Spend more time with your friends & family
Last but certainly not least, spend time with your loved ones! All of these tips leave you free to do so. Take your breaks, leave work on time, and mindfully commute. Step away from your work phone and computer. Plan fun activities, and you’ll be primed and ready to spend quality time with the people you love the most.
So, we’re curious – how do you detach from work?
Please let us know in the comments!
After experiencing three separate bereavements in the family, I learnt how to overcome the lasting effects of my low moods and anxieties, and to get back into the world! I learnt that all the resilience I need to survive is already in me, and that it is my responsibility to make myself happy.
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