Every job is different, but every person with a job struggles with work stress — stress that follows them home from the office.
In order to fully enjoy your home life, though, you must learn to leave work stress at work. Here are 9 tips to help you do just that.
1. Take Mental Breaks Throughout the Day
In trying to improve your home life, one of the most important things you can do is to keep your stress level healthy while at work.
You need to stay productive in the office, but you are not helping yourself or your business if you hit a mental wall and try to plow through it. You are more productive at work if you know when to take breaks. Step away from your desk when your mental concentration becomes fatigued, when you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed or when you just can’t sit still another second. Know your body and when you need to give it a break, and try to limit that to a few minutes every hour or so.
In learning to take appropriate breaks — ideally those that get you out of your chair and moving around — you are keeping your mental stress at a manageable level at work. As a result, you can go home at the end of the day feeling productive and healthy, as opposed to mentally exhausted and frustrated.
2. Find a Good Stopping Place and Leave Yourself With a Plan
When you get on a roll at work, it never feels like the right time to interrupt your flow. However, at some point you need to declare a stopping point and go home.
Before you head out, leave notes for your “tomorrow self.” Rather than making the you of tomorrow walk in to the office and start from scratch, streamline their journey to productivity by leaving a clear plan of action.
The you of today gets to go home relieved, feeling accomplished and knowing you haven’t wasted a good train of thought by leaving work before writing it down. The you of tomorrow gets to walk in to work and have a clear place to start.
3. Take Your Time Getting Home
On the drive home, dawdle. Dilly-dally. Be a slow poke. Not in the sense that you’re driving dangerously slow in rush-hour traffic, but in the sense that you’re thinking of your drive as an easy-going journey home and not as a race to get there before all of the other worker bees traveling on the same highway.
You think you need to make it home before you can start unwinding, but why wait? Start unwinding now by learning to embrace your drive home rather than fighting it.
Use the time you’re traveling to do whatever it is that you need to do in order to relax. Crank up some music, sing, take notice of the scenery, enjoy the silence. On especially stressful days, stop off to get a fruit smoothie on the way home. That’s just fine. Take it one-step further by sitting outside and drinking it there before getting back in the car.
4. Eat Healthy
When you’ve had a stressful day at work, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to come home to a healthy meal.
Yes, it’s tempting to swing by the drive-thru instead. Convenience often trumps logic, but the right fuel for your body does more than just reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
There’s an endless stream of statistics about how eating healthy is good for your body, your mind and your stress levels, but ultimately this is a task that comes down to motivation.
If you want to eat healthier but feel as though you are just too busy to keep up with the task, try planning ahead with meal prep on Sundays (or whatever day works for you), choosing nutrient-dense food rather than empty, sugary foods and making meal time a priority.
5. Find a Workout That’s Right for You
Like eating healthy, exercise is an important lifestyle decision often ignored or overlooked for the sake of saving time. However, exercise reduces stress and depression and increases productivity.
If you think you don’t enjoy exercise, that simply means that you haven’t found the exercise that’s right for you.
Working out isn’t limited to running, lifting weights or bicycling. If you dread going to the gym, try a different kind of workout. Join a co-ed sports team. Try out cardio kickboxing classes. Meet once a week with some friends to play kickball.
Growing up doesn’t mean that fun exercise is off-limits. Find a workout that is fun for you. That way, you actually look forward to your workout days rather than dreading them, and you get all those wonderful, stress-reducing benefits that come along with exercise.
6. Have a Weekly Activity to Look Forward To
The older you get, the less often you probably think to pencil fun into your week. However, adding fun to your routine is a fantastic way to keep work stress out of your home life.
As a kid, you probably had piano lessons or soccer practice or chess club — something that got you out of the house once or twice a week. Think back. Did you look forward to that activity all week? Did the time fly by when you got there? Did you find that break from the usual grind a welcome relief?
If you answered “no” to these questions, your parents probably had you in the wrong activity. Now that you’re all grown up, it’s time to try out something fun for yourself. Perhaps your fun activity is the same as your exercise — weekly kickball, for example. Or maybe a better fit for you is bowling night, girls’/guys’ night out, date night, book club, game night.
Don’t be afraid to try something that has always interested you, even if you might look foolish trying it. No one looks graceful the first time they hit a punching bag, but you can bet you won’t be thinking about work while throwing jabs and focusing on your footwork.
7. Vent in the Right Way, to the Right People
Sometimes you need to vent about work, but make sure that you appreciate the difference between venting and ranting.
Venting is what happens when you’re feeling stressed and you need to talk things out with someone who is glad to listen. Ranting is carrying on and on about something past the point that anything is being accomplished.
The best thing to do is to have one or two good venting buddies on hand — someone who will listen to your frustrations, empathize with them and have some of their own to share. You and your venting buddy will help one another out as long as you both know when to vent, when to stop venting and when to listen.
8. Keep a Notebook Handy
Even if you are managing to not take your work home with you, sometimes you just can’t help it — a stroke of inspiration hits you. You suddenly have an idea that will make a big difference on your latest assignment. Great! Now write it down.
Write it down as soon as it hits you, before you lose it.
With the idea out of your head and safely on paper, you can relax. The idea is not going anywhere, and you can look at it tomorrow when you get in the office. Now, rather than wasting precious brainpower trying to hold on to that idea, you can instead focus on the people and the activities you are trying to enjoy outside of work.
9. Go in to Work With a Positive Mindset
This tip may sound simplistic, but it is an important step in gaining perspective on the work you do and the stress you carry unnecessarily.
Don’t be mad that you have a job and a task to do. Be happy that you have a career and a chance to do something productive. Go in to work tomorrow with the mindset that today you get to earn a paycheck, to be part of a team and to contribute something to your world.