Don’t just take time off from work; detach from work. In the ongoing quest for ways to keep our jobs from stressing us out 24/7, more researchers are studying the best ways to relax in our off hours. A recent article in the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior examined ways employees can detach from work. What do we mean by “detach?”
First off, don’t think about work at home. That means checking emails or starting to plan your day ahead of time. The research shows it just gets harder to de-stress if you’re constantly reminded of work. Even waking up energized was more difficult if you spent time the night before worrying about work. Yes, totally detaching can be challenging. So find activities that help. Outdoor activities such as sports or hiking allow for greater detachment than more passive activities like watching TV or scanning social media. Creative activities—playing an instrument or creating art—also afforded high levels of detachment. Vacations, of course, are a perfect time to detach. If you can stomach a full inbox when you get back to the office, consider even removing email from your phone during your trip.
Secondly, escape work during the day. It’s hard to stay focused for eight hours straight. Take microbreaks. Studies have shown that stretching, walking and other physical microbreaks are more beneficial than, say, sitting at your desk scanning Facebook over lunch. And don’t tell your boss, but socializing with a superior during your break actually doesn’t do much to reduce stress.
If all else fails, shape your job. Unfortunately, if you have a stressful job, you’re not going to escape it. Detachment can help, but as the study notes, people with low-stress jobs have an easier time making the transition to off hours. If you are stuck in a high-stress job, focus on the positive. Studies do show that it becomes easier to detach if you received positive feedback at work or accomplished a big goal or project. Of course, everyone will have tough days. But not dwelling on what went wrong will help you recover at night.