There’s our work life and our non-work life. While the two should be separate and never interact, the truth is that many people with work stress bring it into their non-work lives. This can result in stress that hurts you, your family, and anyone you interact with. Better coping skills and stress management can make it easier to reduce your overall stress so that you’re happier at home.
Understanding How Stress Follows You Home
Let’s first talk about how stress follows you home. You likely know that work is somehow affecting you when you’re home, but how did the stress get there?
Commuting and Replaying
One way is that we’re replaying stressful events during our commute. Your mind wanders while commuting (by bus, car, train, etc). When we just faced a stressful event our mind goes back to that event. It reminds us of how painful it was and what we “should” have done (told the boss to shove it, stand up for ourselves, screamed at the angry customer, etc).
This feels good in one way, but the long-term effect is that it allows the stress and drama to perpetuate. If you’re unconvinced, then simply notice your thoughts next time you commute and had a bad day at work. Do you find yourself replaying the events and pretending it had gone differently? It’s better to use your commute as a time to decompress, to let these thoughts and all events from work go.
Do you find yourself often talking to your friends, family members, and anyone else who will listen about your work stress? You can’t believe this happened, or that so-and-so did that, or how your boss did that really stupid thing. Venting and talking about your stress can be healthy, but like so many healthy things, it comes down to how much it’s done.
If you find yourself talking for hours and hours about work stress, explaining how work goes, and going into minute details so the other person gets it, then you probably aren’t helping yourself. Track how often and how long you’re venting about work stress. Some venting is good, but several hours of it can be unhealthy and might even drag the other person down with you.
Stressing About Work When Home
You actively think about how worried work is making you when you’re off the clock. You’re worried about how tomorrow will go, if the presentation will be good, about seeing an angry client again, and so on. This type of worry and rumination might be called for if you’re realistically worried about being fired or facing workplace harassment (in which case, that should be dealt with immediately), but otherwise keep your mind off work once you clock out. The best thing you can do for yourself is relax and worry about it when you’re back at work.
Leave Stress at Work
So, how do we leave our job stress at work? Here’s a few helpful tips to get you started.
Make a List
One of the reasons job stress follows us is because we feel that we didn’t complete everything or didn’t do enough. A great way to conquer this is to make a list. Make a list as soon as you clock in of everything that needs to get done today. Did you finish your list? Great! Didn’t finish it? That’s OK. Whatever didn’t get done can go at the top of tomorrow’s list.
You need something that signals the end of work life and beginning of non-work life. The ritual can be anything, but it should be something relaxing, simple, and easy to accomplish every day. This can be something small like texting a loved one that you’re done with work or that you miss them.
Many people take a warm, relaxing bath when they get home. You can also drink some relaxing tea, exercise, read a book, watch your favorite show, or even meditating away the stress. Again, it should be simple and easy to do every day. You don’t want something complex because then you’ll never do it.
Make the Commute Fun
If your commute is stressful, then guess what? You’re going to think about stressful subjects. That doesn’t help you and you’ll probably end up thinking about work stress. Making your commute fun is a good way to stop this. Listen to music that you love, start up an audiobook, or even play a game (not if you’re driving, that’s dangerous). Just find a way to make the commute better on your mind and start relaxing now.
Make Home Relaxing
Your home should be a relaxing haven. A stressful, cluttered home isn’t a good place to reduce your stress. In fact, this just makes it worse and you may not want to go home after work (which increases both work and home stress, plus it’s not healthy). Make sure your home is free of clutter. You may not realize it, but a cluttered home will cause you stress. You don’t have to be super meticulous about cleaning, but try to clean the home once a week.
Give yourself a treat, make a special space where you can relax, and let the stress leave your body. If your home is relaxing then this makes it much easier to relax after work and to rejuvenate after a hard day putting your hours in.
Relaxing after work is easy once you understand how to do it. The first thing is seeing how stress follows you from work. I suggested a few ways it can creep in, but there are others. You then need to find ways to cut the cord and make a clear separation between work and home hours. Lastly, make sure that your home is relaxing so that you actually want to go back and that you can manage stress once you’re off the clock.
Let me know how this worked for you and if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments.