How to stop thinking about work (after work) ?
You have already shut down your laptop for the day, but still you are thinking about that one nagging email without even realizing. You are already back home from work but your mind still wanders around the never ending list of tasks that you have to complete by the end of this week. You are playing with your kids but you are not fully present but instead you are thinking subconsciously about the meeting that happened this morning. You just can’t stop thinking or worrying about your work even when you are home. Does this happen to you? You are constantly worrying about your job or your business. Is there a way to just stop thinking about work after work? Is it even possible to shut down all that chaos in your mind when you are already far far away from it physically? Let’s find the ways to stop thinking about work , after work in this episode.
Hello my dear friends, how are you today? Welcome back to yet another episode of Morning Cup of Sunshine podcast. A very warm welcome if you are listening to me for the first time. I am so so glad that you are here today. I am incredibly grateful for each one of you. Today I am going to talk about a topic which is heavy on everyone’s heart. How to stop thinking about work after you stop working? But of course not before Happy Moment of The Week.
Happy Moment of the Week
You must have heard in last week’s episode that Morning Cup of Sunshine completed 50 episodes. I created 50 episodes in the last few months without taking even a single week off. I did not miss even a single week. I am so happy to maintain this consistency. It was a very challenging yet fulfilling journey. After I released my 50th episode on Monday, Rushikesh handed me a box, nicely wrapped with a pretty wrapping paper. I was totally surprised as I was not sure what it’s all about. Sure, I was happy about the 50th episode but I never thought of it as an occasion for gifting. When he said it is a gift from all three of us for you. I was taken aback. I did not see that coming. When I opened the box, there was a book that I wanted to read for a few months now. I actually put a hold on an audio book for a month in our local library before getting it only for 14 days after waiting for months. Unfortunately, I was not able to finish it in 14 days and I had again begin my quest to get my hands on this book. Rushikesh knew this and he surprised me with this book’s copy. I could not believe it, I did not know that he noticed how much I wanted to read this book. Can you guess which book this is? It is the volume 1 of Promised Land by Barack Obama. You know I don’t talk about politics and religion on this podcast. That’s my conscious decision and me reading this book has nothing to do with politics. Instead, after reading and re-reading Becoming I was surely inspired and I wanted to read Promised land ever since. I wanted to read about their journey. And here it is right now, with me. I am going to devour it and I am sure it will be as inspiring as Becoming. Rushikesh’s thoughtful gift was definitely my highlight of the week. This gesture touched my heart and I am going to cherish this moment. What about you my friend? How was your week? Did you do anything fun this week? I would love to hear all about your happy moments in my weekly post for Happy Moments in my private Facebook Group, Morning Cup of Sunshine community. Come join me to share some positivity and happiness around.
Alright, time to dive straight in today’s episode. It doesn’t matter if you are a business owner or an employee or work at home mom, it happens to every single one of us. We thinkin about our work outside of the office. I understand it can happen sometimes but if it is happening way too frequently then it is time to stop and work on it. Because, if you keep thinking about work outside the office, it will bring stress. Sometimes, you wake up in the middle of the night by that constant worrying feeling about the email that you are supposed to send next morning. If this is happening way too frequently, it is causing not only stress but making you sleep deprived. That can lead to a number of health issues. It can impact your productivity, critical thinking, your ability to function at your best level so it is time to take a step back and work on these thoughts. I have been there and suffered too. Together, let’s find ways to stop thinking about work, outside of work. Since this is the 51st episode, I am going to tell you 51 ways to stop thinking about work outside of work, just kidding.. This will take forever considering the way I like to describe each step. I know you have many other things to do so I am going to share only 3 very crucial steps to achieve this goal. So, let’s start without any further delay, shall we?
Step 1 : Move your body
This step seems very simple but I guarantee you that this is the most effective step of all. If you can not stop thinking about work even after you are outside of your work hours that’s because our minds are free spirits, we can not completely control the thoughts that are flowing through our minds. But we can help our mind by being more comfortable with those thoughts and for this we need to do something that will bring our pressure down, create a harmony in our thoughts. The best way to achieve that is by moving your body. Choose any simple activity, walk your dog, just take a light jog or a quick workout. It can be as simple as cooking one small dish or cleaning for a little while. Choose some quick activity where not only your mind but your body has to work. Working out right after work always helped me to transition my mindset. It helps me relax and ensures my mind that work day is over. I understand in this fast paced world, you can not say that I will work only during 9-5, you might be a business owner who needs to work long hours or you might be coordinating the teams spread across multiple time zones so you have no option but to take the meetings early morning or late at night or you are essential worker who has to work out of these 9-5 boundaries. Whatever your timings are try to stick to those timings every single day, if possible but what is the most important thing here is that after you are done with your work don’t keep thinking of upcoming tasks, pending tasks in your free time. Is it that easy? Can you force your mind to stop thinking about certain things? I think it actually has a reverse effect. Have you heard about this mind exercise? Let me tell you about it. It is quite interesting. Listen to me carefully and whatever it may be but don’t think about an elephant. Don’t imagine how big it is, don’t think about its grey color, or a long trunk or its strong legs. Don’t think about elephants at all. What happened? Did you think about elephants while trying not to think about them? The more you force your mind not to think about something the more you find yourself thinking about the exact same thing. So, instead of forcing your mind not to think about work, be comfortable with those thoughts, deviate your mind to those activities that will occupy your mind and give you a sense of relaxation.
Step 2 : Self compassion
I think this is the most relevant reason why we think too much about work. We think what we do in our work time is not enough. We think we have to do something more. We have to be better. I understand that the working hour concept is totally blurry these days. It is a very common phenomenon to check and respond to your emails outside of work hours. It feels like initially we were working from the office, then came the whole work from the home saga. The office relocated to your home and boundaries became thinner and thinner but nowadays I feel as if the work has relocated to our mind and the boundaries have completely disappeared. We are running a race to be better, to achieve something more and if we find ourselves lacking someday, we think of it as a catastrophe. We are the first one to blame ourselves. We are the first ones to criticize ourselves. We are the first one to judge ourselves. We always find ourselves in a situation where we feel stressed or overwhelmed because we are so harsh one ourselves. How could you not complete that one simple task? How could you not handle that team even with so much experience? How could you not meet your deadline? Productivity does not mean you have to be harsh on yourself all the time to get things done. You can be self compassionate, give yourself the permission to be kind to yourself. If you think self criticizing works better for you to motivate yourself, think twice. It is self compassion that will take you farther. It will boost your energy and mood to complete your tasks. We think about work non stop because we think what we accomplished during our work time is not enough, we were not good enough. It is absolutely great to thrive for greatness, success but isn’t it equally important to thrive for contentment and calmness. It is your responsibility to not only work on your professional skills but also to hone on your life skills. It is your responsibility to spend your time with not only your work but also with your loved ones. It is your right and being compassionate to your needs will make you feel in control with your life. I know that it is not easy and it will take some intentional actions but I guarantee you if you work on the steps I am mentioning in today’s episode, it will definitely make your life less stressful.
Step 3 : Set a healthy boundary - Transitional time
I have talked about this step in detail in one of the previous episodes. Episode No - How to set boundaries at work. I highly recommend you to listen to that episode. It has tons of practical tips to set the boundaries. I will put the link to that episode in my show notes. Please check that episode after you are done listening to this episode. For the purposes of today’s episode, let me give you a quick overview of how to set healthy boundaries and more importantly how to have the transitional time between your work and after work routine. In my experience, when you start panicking in the middle of the night about what happened in your work day or when you start writing about your work related tasks in your grocery list or keep on talking about your work on every single phone call with your friends or family, that is when you absolutely need to work on creating some intentional transitional routine to break down your day. Even if you don’t actually work after your work day is over but if you keep thinking about your work and if it makes you anxious, sleep deprived then it is high time to work on creating some boundaries. I feel that most of the time it is not really the pressure of actual work to-do list that makes you anxious but the pressure of anticipation makes it worse. I have experienced it first hand. I still remember , It was around 4-5 years back, I used to have a customer call every Wednesday at 4.00 pm. We used to work on every single issue raised during that week. Everyone had to give the status of each item assigned to them , color code them per priority, severity and what not. It was quite a high pressure call. I still remember laying wide awake in my bed every Tuesday night for months, if not I used to wake middle of the night thinking about that meeting. I used to get worried anticipating that this meeting would be extremely stressful. In reality, it was not as half bad as I used to think. But the anxiety of anticipation was at peak. But after I started working on creating boundaries, making some deliberate efforts to get comfortable about my thoughts, this anxiety started to dissipate by every passing week. I started getting less and less worried about upcoming Wednesdays. I made some very simple changes. I started giving closure to my work day by literally closing everything down. I started closing all open applications on my laptop, closing all open tabs on my internet browser, and actually shutting down my laptop. I started closing my eyes for a minute or two before getting up from my desk. I started saying to myself that I am enough and it was a productive day. I started reminding myself that I did my best to complete my day’s work and I was sincere and honest in my work. I now have my own permission to relax and unwind and enjoy the rest of my day with my family. It is time to close work day and start living my life outside the work. This was a quick 2 minute ritual to reboot my mind. I showed heartfelt gratitude to my work which gave me a chance to do something that I love and I also acknowledged the fact that it is part of my life and not the entire life. When I used to travel for work, I always listened to some relaxing music or my favorite songs on the way home. It created a nice boundary. Now that I don’t travel anymore, I started working out right after I finish my work day. It elevates my mood and makes me feel accomplished. I love this routine a lot. So, pick any activity that makes you feel good, be it as simple as watering your indoor plants or a quick walk in the neighborhood or maybe just sit in your balcony or patio for a few minutes, have a cup of coffee or tea. Create a transitional routine. Don’t jump into another task right after finishing your work day. That will tire you out instead, do something that you love. Stick to this transitional routine and if you do something you love after work, you will worry less and feel less stressful. Mother Teresa once said, if you want to change the world, go home and love your family. I completely understand having a successful career is the top priority for some but who are you going to enjoy your success if you don’t have anybody besides you to enjoy it with? Instead try to spend your time more intentionally, living more and worrying less. Spend your time wisely, you can have time for everything if you just start focusing on one thing at a time instead of constantly worrying about work even while doing something else. You can have time for everything, time to relax and time to be busy. Time to frolic and time to be labor. Time to receive and time to give, time to begin and time to finish, time to work and time to relax, time to worry and time to let it go.