5 Tips to Help You Switch Off From Work

By Karen Amos

I see a lot of posts on social media about people who find they can’t switch off during the holidays.  Is this you?  Whether you’re going away somewhere or having a break at home, the feeling that your long awaited holiday is finally here, but your mind’s whirring like a machine and all you can think about is how many jobs there are to do when you get back – if not before!

As a note of reassurance here, you’re not alone.  The pace of the working week can seem relentless.  For some the ‘end of the (working) day’ never really comes, particularly with the advent of home-working.  This means we’re living in an ‘Always On’ state of high arousal levels and stress.

In simple terms, this means rather than your adrenaline response shutting off, allowing your stress to ebb and flow naturally, your brain has its foot on the gas pedal and keeps it there.  This response is supposed to be fleeting – just long enough for you to get yourself out of imminent danger.  In the case of workplace stress, it can remain in place.  For months sometimes.  This leaves your body and brain unable to simply flick the switch to turn off the response, even though it’s not needed any more.

So what to do?  Here are a few tips and coaching questions to help train your brain to lift its foot off your stress gas pedal, so you can work and rest productively.  Remember, the aim isn’t to solve all of these in one go.  No point ending up more stressed out by trying to fix your stress levels!  Instead, pick one area and take one small action at a time…

Tip #1:

See time off as an investment – Explore and clarify to yourself how you will be more productive if you take time off to rest, whether that’s for an evening, a weekend or a holiday.  Set out clearly what you would gain – naming it makes all the difference, then you know what you’re aiming for.

Tip #2:

Make a list of everything that needs to be done – Include everything, big or small.  This allows you to stop worrying that you’ve forgotten something and allows you to stop spinning those mental plates.  Remind yourself you can add any jobs, when they come into your head as you go along.

Tip #3:

Prioritise what needs to be done – Do a reality check and ask yourself – Is this thing possible? – is it essential? – Also ask yourself what would happen if this wasn’t completed before the end of the month, or if you were off sick?  Chances are most of these tasks will be less ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ than you feel they are right now.  Where you can, block out things into a basic timescale or planner.

Tip #4:

Switch off your media – This means no checking in on emails and social media.   Give yourself a digital detox and if you find this makes you anxious or you have such strong ingrained habits to pick up your phone, put your phone or laptop out of reach at least for a short while.

Tip #5:

Find something practical to do – If you engage in a practical activity, you’re more likely to be distracted from the anxious feelings, at least for a while.  Get outdoors for some exercise.  Not only is this a great stress-buster, it will also help you to sleep.  Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, book activities in that you enjoy and revel in that restorative distraction.  Why not catch up with friends and family too?  Having a laugh and talking with others is a great distraction.  Just stick to those positive people in your life and avoid the ‘joy stealers’!

Hopefully, these will help you set some positive habits and ensure you have some quality time off so you’re well-rested and on top of your game when you return to work.  In the meantime, here’s wishing everyone a positive and productive month, no matter what you have planned!

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.