Switching off from work can be difficult at the best of times, but trying to switch off during a pandemic, where we are working in our living spaces might feel ten times harder. Almost a third of us working find it difficult to switch off in personal time, putting us more at risk of becoming stressed or burnt out. Winding down after a tough or long day is particularly hard while our usual activities are off due to social restrictions, and technology is at our fingertips to stay stuck in a work headspace, checking emails or chats late into the evenings.
Switching off is vital to our wellbeing and productivity, two things we need to take a little extra care for during these times. Here are some of the ways we have switched off in the Beingwell family:
Schedule for accountability
Martina says: “I found switching off from work quite difficult during the lockdowns as I like to leave the house, so without the option, I was a bit stuck. I will usually respond to any late emails, because I’m so passionate about what I do and the team, but I do switch off notifications for emails, so I’m not glued to devices and constantly aware of new, unread emails” – it’s hard not to look when we know somethings waiting in an inbox! “I find it much easier to switch off when I have something completely different scheduled for the end of the day, whether it’s important or casual, sometimes it’s a fitness class online, sometimes a walk with a friend to grab a coffee, but without scheduling I can find it hard to stick at switching off so it keeps me accountable.”
Scheduling non-work related activities for the end of the day can help us feel accountable for our actions which will help us stick to plans, arrangements or commitments – and therefore switch off!
Bring some mindfulness to the day
Bernard says: “I like to do different things on different days to switch off, having a busy schedule of meetings throughout the day I like to follow my mood, but I find it much easier when it is unrelated to work. Sometimes I’ll head out for a bike ride or a walk, but recently the colder weather and darker nights have put me off! I recently bought a new turntable so I can listen to my old vinyl’s and be present in the moment with them. It can be easier to work for longer when at home than at the office, I use the travel time to get the last bits done, but when I stop, I stop.”
Listening to music and being in the moment with it is a really simple way to bring some mindfulness practice to your day and might just be exactly what we need to wind down.
Do what works for you
James says: “It’s not been as simple for us to just switch off at the end of the working day, as both Kelly and I (his wife) are working together and from home, but when our kids come home from school it's usually switch-off time. Working and living together can lead work into our home life, but teatime is usually our cue to stop, especially working in the dining room – it needs to be clear for us all to eat!”
Many of us are facing similar realities, it’s not always possible to just switch off completely but putting effort into something else can be really helpful. And it doesn’t have to be a big gesture, it can be as simple as cooking dinner!
Have Good Intentions
Duncan says: “I can struggle with switching off, often having a very busy schedule means I can end up working late into the night, but this can turn my routine upside down. I’ve learnt a lot about sleep and listening to what your body needs recently; on quieter days I walk the dog and enjoy dinner with my family, and I do take regular breaks in my day. I don’t try to compartmentalise work and home life as it doesn’t feel too necessary for me, but I do have some rules during the working week; no booze Monday to Thursday and I try not to use devices (other than telly) after 9 pm. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t and that’s ok.”
He’s right, that is ok. Our routines or plans will not always go accordingly but good intentions can serve us as well. If we can make an effort to stick to some working week rules that are different from the weekend or downtime rules, we will still benefit from the switch-off effect without making big changes to our lifestyles.
Diego says: “As soon as I finish what I’m doing for the day, I get ready to do a workout or go for a run, I like to use exercise as a change to my activity. It is something completely different to focus on and I find it refreshes my mind after a day of work. In the winter months, I tend to do some exercise inside, like live workouts on social media or just a simple home routine I found myself.”
Doing exercise is a great way to clear the mind, especially if it’s been a heavy day. And although it can feel tougher to get out and do some exercise in the winter months, we can utilise the live workouts, home DVDs, or online classes, especially for those of us working in more sedentary roles.
Out of sight out of mind
Laura says: “I find it quite easy to switch off from work, every day I take my dog, Ned, for a walk, sometimes a long one, sometimes a short one but it is completely different from my job and he is my best pal. I have a collapsible desk, so on a Friday evening I pack everything away so I can fully unwind over the weekend – and setting up on a Monday morning is a great way to start the new working week!”
Whether it’s a pet or a human, socialising after work is a great switch off and packing up our space is a useful way to help us relax for the weekend, especially those of us who find it easy to get sucked into our jobs – out of sight, out of mind.
Sam says: “I keep my boundaries firm between work and living, firstly by keeping my work and living spaces separate, and even my device usage. I leave my laptop in my workroom, to avoid taking it into my living space because even mindless scrolling can turn into work sometimes, and I also use an alert on my phone to signal the end of the day and time to pack away. Once I’ve finished, I like to do something I enjoy, which recently has been cooking new recipes (eat your heart out Jamie Oliver)!”
Boundaries are really useful and important in almost everything we do, so practising the use between work and playtime is really helpful if we’re struggling to switch off. It requires some self-discipline, but boundaries are a great coping mechanism to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
Use a Mantra
Helena says: “I found switching off while working remotely quite difficult, I think most of us have felt this too, at the beginning it was a novelty and great, and slowly it can turn into feeling like you’re living at work! My top tip is to close the laptop with conviction at the end of the day and say out loud, “That’s it for today!”, and then go off and do something else so you can’t sneak back to it, maybe a workout or a walk”
Having a mantra or statement can help us act with intention, when we’re struggling to follow through with something, we might give ourselves a pep-talk or we might use a statement of encouragement!
Reality reminder: our lives can get very busy, especially when we’re doing everything from within the same four walls. It can feel repetitive so it’s good to break up our weeks and days with things we enjoy as well as the things we need to do. We will feel more productive and happier with good switch off techniques, but these will be as individual as we all are so pinch some of the above ideas, and experiment!