Written by Roydon Gibbs
What are you going to do this evening to make sure you're up for another day of challenges at work tomorrow?
Grab a bottle of wine, order in pizza and lie on the couch for four hours watching reality TV? It might be tempting, but is that the best way to recuperate and recharge yourself? Maybe, maybe not.
Let me explain.
It might seem obvious but, being able to detach or switch-off from work and relax is an important part of recovering from work-related stress.
What is the best way to do that?
I’ve had a look at what various studies have discovered in recent years and here are some suggestions worth thinking about...
• Create clear physical and mental boundaries between your work and non-work life. Routines like tidying your desk at the end of the day, listening to your favourite music as you travel home and changing clothes when you get home can help.
• If you have the habit of talking about your day with your partner when you get home, discuss work first, limiting the time you spend doing that. Then move on to other topics and activities. It can also be helpful to include positive things in the conversation. Share with them what went well, things you did well and what you accomplished.
• Identify a range of different things you can do to recover and realise that different things work for different people. Watching TV, reading a book, listening to music, engaging in hobbies, exercising and social activities can all be helpful.
• Include some form of physical activity (sport, gardening, housework, walking the dog, active play with the kids...) in your routine.
• Make sure the activities you choose are ones you want to do and that you get some enjoyment from doing them. That's not as obvious as it sounds, there is a risk that we choose to do activities that we think we should be doing. Activities that require effort and concentration can be useful—the key is that you have some fun doing them. For some people, watching an engaging drama series on TV while ironing clothes might be great, for others the challenge of learning to play a musical instrument works, for others a game of social basketball is ideal.
• Develop habits that support good sleep. For example, do a brain dump at the end of the day by creating your to-do lists in the evening for the following day. Get some exposure to sunlight during the day and avoid exposure to TV, laptops, tablets and smart screens within two hours of bedtime. You might also want to avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol as they can disrupt sleep.
• Plan to do your chosen activity—do not leave it to chance. Block out time on your schedule. Create strategies to deal with any thoughts, feelings or circumstances that might stop you from doing your chosen activity. For example, you might be at risk of coming home and falling into an armchair in front of the TV, rather than going for your run. Take your running clothes with you to work to avoid the risk. Get changed before you leave work and stop at the park on the way home (before you can get to the armchair) and go for your run.
There is no magic cure or perfect way to recover from work-related stress. However, you will cope a whole lot better if you know the type of enjoyable activities that help you to detach, relax and recuperate at the end of the day—then do them.