Have you ever thought about your process for intentionally disconnecting from work? I remember when I used to commute thirty minutes each way. My thoughts on the drive to work were about work. And my thoughts on my way home were about work, my personal task list for the evening, and what I was going to make for dinner.
It turns out dinner was the only thing separating my thoughts from work. Cooking calms my mind and body and helps me become present and focused. Throughout the evening I found my thoughts easily wandering back to work or some other “to do.” It doesn’t matter if I work for a nonprofit, a consulting company, or myself, my off time can easily be consumed with mere thoughts about work if I’m not careful.
So many of my clients have been focusing on finding true stress relief lately, too. The kind that is restorative and truly relaxing, not a mental distraction with thought loops still running in the background. I’ve heard some describe this mental chatter as a constant buzzing in our head, like the t.v. is always on in the background but it’s just that static-y white noise.
Here are some ways they’ve identified the differences in their own lives and have brought awareness to me, too, where I distract, rather than disconnect:
- Running vs. zoning out in front of the t.v.
- Going on a date with a significant other (or at least sharing 45 minutes of meaningful conversation) vs. running errands together
- Reading a good book vs. scrolling through the Tweet machine
- Spending 45 minutes at the gym, breaking a good sweat vs. piddling around between weight machines for two hours
- Connecting with friends over beverages vs. sitting at home alone with a box of pizza
The first options can bring us into the present moment where our mind is still. The latter options rely on physical stimulation, but rarely help our mind truly relax.
Find better ways to disconnect.
Many of us are working with families who are homeless or getting their utilities shut off today. Or they’re having a manic episode, or their kid is failing in school. It’s difficult to not worry for them or wonder if that assistance is going to come through in the nick of time.
For you to show up doing the best work possible, you can’t think about work all the time. It just ain’t good — for you or them.
When you’re able to truly re-charge (think: having a small mental vacation every. single. day.), you can solve problems more effectively, respond more quickly, be in a better mood, eat more healthy, get better sleep … the benefits are endless.
Try these practices to help your mind unwind at various point in the day:
- Take a few deep breaths whenever you enter and right before you get out of your car (heck, take a few deep breaths whenever you need to)
- Take a 15 to 20 minute nap at lunch (this isn’t a joke)
- Have 30 minutes of family quiet time each evening, where no one is allowed to create noise or be on a digital device, but they can read, exercise, etc.
- Physically exercise until you break a sweat
- Do something creative: doodle, color, pottery class
- Walk in a park and notice every leaf, bird chirp, and insect
Now it’s your turn.
This list can be just the beginning. What are ways you truly disconnect at the end of the day or end of the week that keeps you energized in your work?