How To Switch Off From Work

Black woman standing on metro platform

Burnout, once just a staff member being dramatic, is now being recognized as a medical condition. The effects of overworking can come with a variety of physical and mental health symptoms including emotional exhaustion, headaches, stomachaches, and stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms. Look out for anxiety, a lack of sleep, a lack of creativity or purpose, emotional numbness, or a cynical outlook. 

The main one is alienation from work, so if you start to hate your job, a job by all other logic you should love (or at least like) then you might be feeling burnout.

Working from home is making burnout particularly relevant today with the separation of work and home becoming increasingly blurred. A lot of people have embraced working from home due to the control over their work/life balance, but the other side of that coin is the fact that you now live in your workplace. This is making it more difficult to switch off from work duties even if your computer screen is black. Read on for tips on how to keep work from encroaching on every aspect of your life. 

1. Separate work from home

Much like a separation of church and state, you will need a separation of work and home. That can get particularly tricky if you’re working from home. It’s right there in the name. 

If you’re having trouble turning off after you’ve logged out, consider the state of your workspace. Is it physically far from where you rest? If you work in your bed with a laptop, that answer is no, and is probably why you’re thinking about that presentation when you climb in to sleep. 

Set up a desk corner in a spare or less used room and make sure you can walk away from it when you need to. You’d be amazed how simply leaving a room can take your mind off of what you were thinking about. Ever walked through a door and forgotten why you went in there?

2. Turn off all your devices

Not entirely. You still need to talk to someone at the end of a stressful day, but you shouldn’t be interrupted by an email from the boss asking a last-minute question. Turn off your computer, switch off notifications to your email and turn your phone on silent. Other people may try to squeeze in a “Technically I know it’s 5.01 but can you help me?” phone call. You are not obligated to take it.

If you need to, look into how to get a second phone number. Give one number to your friends and family to socialize and de-stress and offer the other number to clients and managers for work. 

3. Change your clothes

Get out of your work clothes. Even if you work in your pajamas on days where there is no meeting, change out of them. Get into different pajamas if you wish. The point is to get you out of the working headspace. Maybe take a shower to wash the day off you. Even better, take a long bath. Get the taps running half an hour before you finish, and it’ll be waiting for you when you log off. 

4. Clear your head

Even better than leaving the room, leave the house. Get outside and get some air. You’d be surprised how fast your brain clears and how small your problems will appear. Take an evening stroll to get your body moving after spending eight hours in a desk chair. If you want to take it a step further, exercise and release some endorphins to make you feel happier and lift that weight off your shoulders.

If you have a hobby, indulge in that for an hour or two after work. Having a project outside of work will give you a purpose beyond your job and increase your self-worth. Even if it’s trying that recipe, you’ve been looking at for dinner, get a new project. 

5. Make plans

A great way to take your mind off the present is thinking about the future. Having something to look forward to gives you something outside of your job to work towards. 

Do you want to get away? Start looking at flights and hotels – or the fun stuff like tourist attractions. Do you want to get fitter? Write a fitness plan. Do you want a night out? Call the girls and see what they’re doing this weekend. 

Schedule in time for rest and pleasant activities so you know for sure, when you’re in the thick of it, that there will be a time when you will be doing something else, and you will be happy. 

These will all get you excited for your life beyond your laptop and improve your overall sense of wellbeing.

6. Socialize

Sometimes you need to offload. Sometimes you need a distraction. Good family and friends can deliver either way. They can offer an ear to listen while you rant or offer a simple change in conversation. Maybe talking about their problems will make you feel better. It’s more about the reaction we have to being around the people we love. It can help you forget work for a while and feel better about yourself.

7. Talk to HR

If it is getting bad enough that you are considering leaving your position, consider having a conversation with your Human Resources department first. If you’re in an environment that is looking to improve the employee experience, they may be open to making changes. And if not, at least you can say you tried.

Unfortunately, the most final way of dealing with burnout can be getting out of the job you’re in, but that can come with its own stresses of trying to find another job. 

If you feel like you are experiencing burnout, talk to a mental health professional to help you navigate a way out of your predicament

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