Recent research suggests that being able to detach from work is associated with higher life satisfaction, lower stress and, surprisingly, better performance when actually working. For example, a study in Germany followed 309 people over a year and found those who could detach from work were significantly less emotionally drained and were overall healthier. Furthermore, it appeared these gains were most significant when people were stressed or felt overloaded with work. It would seem that we probably most need to relax when we feel we have no time to relax!
Being able to detach from work has got a lot more difficult with the introduction of emails and smartphones over the last twenty years. Working cultures have also developed that carry expectations of people catching up with work at home. Not being able to switch off brings a double whammy. Not only do you get more tired and stressed, you also have less time to be fully present in the rest of your life and relationships.
How do we detach? Firstly, have a ‘leaving work’ ritual of looking at the next day and make a plan about what needs to be done the next day. Having a clear, concrete plan of action will make it more likely that your brain won’t be nagging you about all the things you haven’t done. Secondly, you must learn to value the personal benefits of detaching from work. Personal wear-and-tear on your mind and body isn’t a problem in the short term. But over a long period it will make a big difference to your well-being. Thirdly, when you come home from work get on with your other life; the one involving your personal relationships, having fun, learning new things and taking care of your body.
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