If you’re like millions of Americans, you probably feel like you’re a switch continually set to the “on” position. Technology is a terrific tool, but it is also an intrusive one. Even if you leave the office, the temptation to check your work email with a few taps of your smartphone can rear its head in the middle of cooking dinner with your partner.
How can you learn how to leave work at the office? One technique involves creating a “shut down” routine to serve as a bridge between your two worlds. Such a practice can alleviate stress and help you reclaim your time.
Why you need a “shut down” routine
Compared to their comrades around the world, Americans spend a disproportionate amount of time at work. The European Union requires member countries to extend citizens at least 20 paid days of vacation annually, although many countries go much further. The United States, conversely, doesn’t mandate a single day of paid leave. As a result, many Americans never get any meaningful downtime. 23% of the population gets no paid vacation at all, and 22% can’t even enjoy a federal holiday without a corresponding drop in pay.
As a result, many Americans feel levels of burnout unheard of in previous generations. The strain is taking a toll on mental health. Approximately 18% of adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety, and a significant source of this tension is constant workplace pressure. Untreated stress can contribute to a host of health issues and even cut your life short. Everybody needs a way to unwind.
Ideas for shutting down after work
Now that you understand why you need a routine, what can you do to unplug? It all begins with setting healthy boundaries. It’s one thing to stay late during crunch time. However, if you habitually stay “just ten minutes” to wrap things up, only to look at the clock an hour later, you must learn when to say no. Determine a reasonable hour to punch out and stick with it. Then, try one of these ideas to decompress:
Unplug during your commute
How do you get to the office? If you live within a reasonable distance, why not bike or walk to work instead of driving? The physical exercise involved with getting yourself home gives your brain time to focus on something other than that expense report. Plus, moving your body in the great outdoors can ease stress and depression as effectively as medications in some cases.
If the weather or distance poses a barrier, consider using public transportation. Instead of fighting traffic, you can read or even catch a quick nap. If that’s not possible, try unwinding with a positivity podcast while you head home.
Hit the gym
Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. These alleviate tension and leave you relaxed and refreshed. How can you get a boost in these opioid-like substances? Hit the gym! It doesn’t matter whether you run on a treadmill or pump iron — if it elevates your heart rate, it will do the trick.
Create a docking station
If the temptation to check your work email via phone proves too much to bear, create a docking station and a ritual surrounding it. Always unplug your devices before sitting at the dinner table and at least 30 minutes before bedtime. You’ll likely find you catch more Zzzs if you keep electronics out of the bedroom. Exposure to blue light can suppress the release of melatonin, a critical sleep hormone.
Schedule playtime with friends
Make sure to make time in your week to see friends, family or bond with your partner. Do anything to reconnect and remind yourself why you tolerate the daily grind. Find time for fun and being playful like you’re a kid again.
Cook a nourishing meal
Cooking nourishes both your body and your soul. Learn how to meal prep on your days off. That way, you’re not tempted to hit the drive-thru on your way home. Preparing the family meal becomes a healing post-work ritual instead of a headache of washing and chopping veggies.
Shut down from work and clock into life
Once you begin your after-work shut down routine, you should develop a sense of calm and improved satisfaction with life. You deserve time to rest and unwind!