How to Keep Work Stress From Taking Over Your Life
Unless you’re a robot, it’s all but impossible to avoid having work stress(don’t worry, robots, your time will come!). But it’s not impossible to avoid taking those feelings home with you at the end of the day. True leisure time, in which anxiety and frustration over work can be set aside until you’re next at the office, is essential to staying mentally in check. Here are five ways to keep work stress, rage, and anxiety where they belong.
The last thing that sounds appealing after a hard day of work is a brisk walk. But there’s something really restorative about giving your brain time to decompress from the day while also burning off excess energy with some physical activity. If you drive to work, try parking a five or ten minute walk from your office, and using that time to clear your head; bus commuters, walk to the next stop beyond yours (or get off one stop early on the way home).
Make today’s work stress your Future Self’s problem.
The emotion I’m most likely to carry away from work with me is anxiety; I tend to fret about the next day’s work before I’m even sitting down to start in on it. “Don’t worry!” has never been particularly helpful advice for me, but what’s worked is saying to myself, “I know you’re worried about that call tomorrow, but that’s Future Lauren’s problem.” It’s less the elimination of worry and more the placing that worry in someone else’s capable hands for awhile.
If you live with a partner or a roommate, don’t make them the designated person to whom you complain about your job or process frustrating work situations. Choose a different friend or family member to vent to (and make sure they don’t mind if you do). That way, you won’t be constantly tempted to dive into dissecting work stresses because your processing partner is available to you at all times at home. This reduces your roommate or partner’s stress levels, too!
Advocate for balance.
If you have a job that doesn’t require you to be online or available by phone after hours, great! Savor it, and don’t squander it by choosing to read email or make calls when it’s not required of you. (The old “put your phone in a basket as soon as you get home” trick helps here.) If you don’t have this luxury, start conversations in your workplace about how to set limits that work for you, your teammates, and your bosses. Chances are no one wants to be responding to work email at 10PM, and being the first one to (diplomatically) say so will help you and your colleagues.
One of the best ways to mitigate workplace stress during the day and keep from bringing it home with you is to have something to look forward to at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you have to go out every night after work, but give yourself something that will fall something along the scale of diverting to fun at the end of every day. Maybe it’s playing with your kid, maybe it’s reading a book, maybe it’s grabbing a drink. But having a firm, concrete plan in mind will both lift your spirits and draw a clean boundary between work time and your time.