It’s an unfortunate reality that once you’re finally out of the office, off the clock, unreachable by the powers that be (your boss), is exactly when you start over analyzing every detail of your work day.
You might find that you stress about your job more when you’re laying in bed or watching Netflix than you do when you’re actually working.
There’s a simple explanation for this, according to Guy Winch, a psychologist and host of the TED Talk “How to turn off work thoughts during your free time.”
“We are really busy when we are working and we don’t have a lot of time to reflect on what’s upsetting us,” Winch says. “We tend to do that when we have a lull. And that tends to be outside of work.”
The key to stifling these intrusive thoughts and fully recovering from a stressful work day isn’t resting, he says, but keeping your mind actively focused on something else.
“People think of recovery as rest,” Winch says. “We just plant ourselves in front of a screen of any size and zone out. While resting is useful and important, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Recovering also requires us to recharge.”
Resting vs. Recharging
You probably find that it’s when you’re scrolling social media or watching TV that your mind starts wandering to your work frustrations. This is because most people cannot go from thinking about their job to thinking about nothing.
“Disengaging from work means you need to shift your mindset from a work mindset to something else,” Winch says. “You can’t just not think about something. The transcendental yogi might be able to achieve that, but we can’t.”
Instead of simply resting, you need to recharge. This means engaging in an activity that truly absorbs you.
“To recharge we need to do things that are personally fulfilling,” Winch says.
This doesn’t need to be a time-consuming hobby. It could be working out for 30 minutes or doing a crossword puzzle.
“We are in a work persona when we are in the office and we need to give air to our personal self,” Winch says.
Even if all you want to do is vegetate on the couch, it’s worth it to push yourself to do something that isn’t your job.
“Usually we are tired and we don’t want to do stuff, but almost everyone has had the experience of thinking, ‘Oh god, I don’t want to do that,’ and even though you’re tired you feel more refreshed afterward,” he says.
If you recharge, you’re less likely to be pestered by work thoughts as you rest, Winch says: “When you have a good recovery you sleep better and wake up better the next day.”
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