Today you’re going to learn how to stop thinking about work.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for one’s overall wellbeing and happiness. However, it can be challenging to detach oneself from work-related stressors such as unread emails and pending deadlines.
If you find yourself constantly preoccupied with work during your personal time, consider being more mindful and present in the moment, finding engaging activities to divert your attention, or creating clearer boundaries between your professional and personal life.
How To Stop Thinking About Work:
1. Reflect on any potential cognitive distortions that you might have regarding your work.
These distortions refer to thoughts that don’t accurately reflect the entire reality of a situation or that make things appear worse than they are. If left unchecked, these can lead to negative emotions and job dissatisfaction.
Some common cognitive distortions that people experience in the workplace include:
Overgeneralizing a negative event as a universal rule, such as thinking that your boss dislikes you after receiving one reprimand;
Mentally filtering out the positive aspects of your day, such as only focusing on a long and tedious meeting and disregarding the enjoyable lunch you had with colleagues or the compliments you received from a client;
Jumping to conclusions, such as assuming that you’re the first one to be laid off when your company announces poor sales for the quarter; Making “should” statements, such as thinking that you deserve a raise or promotion because of your hard work.
2. To gain a better perspective on work-related stressors, consider implementing the 5-year rule.
Whenever you find yourself troubled by something at work, ask yourself whether it will matter in 5 years. If the answer is no, try to let go of the worry. This technique can help you remember the big picture and what truly matters in the long run.
For instance, if you stumble during a significant presentation, it likely won’t have a significant impact in 5 years. However, if you skip the presentation and lose your job as a result, it will matter.
The 5-year rule can also assist in prioritizing tasks. Focus on the things that will be significant in the long term and avoid allowing minor issues to consume your attention.
3. One technique to help you stay present in the moment and avoid work-related thoughts is to use a rubber band.
Wrap a rubber band around your wrist and lightly snap it each time you catch yourself thinking about work. This sensation will remind you to redirect your thoughts to something else.
By associating work thoughts with a slight sting, your brain may start to avoid such thoughts to prevent getting snapped by the band. Be careful not to snap the band too hard that it causes pain or leaves a mark. The goal is not to hurt yourself but to create a physical reminder to shift your focus away from work.
4. To manage work-related thoughts and prevent them from consuming your day, consider allocating just 10 minutes each day to focus on work-related matters.
Use a timer to ensure that you only spend 10 minutes thinking about work, and write down everything that comes to mind in a notebook or notes app. Once the 10 minutes are up, put away the notebook or close the app, and avoid thinking about work for the rest of the day.
You can schedule these 10-minute sessions in your planner or calendar, giving you a designated time to focus on work-related concerns. Avoiding work thoughts entirely can be challenging and may exacerbate your anxiety.
By setting aside a specific time to think about work, you can better manage those thoughts and maintain control over your attention throughout the day.
5. One way to cultivate mindfulness and reduce work-related thoughts is by practicing a daily 10-minute meditation routine.
To start, find a comfortable spot on the floor and set a timer for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and focus on the sensations of your breath as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils.
When a thought arises, simply acknowledge it and gently bring your attention back to your breath. This technique shifts your focus away from work and encourages you to slow down and relax.
You can meditate for as long as you like, but 10 minutes is a good starting point for beginners. To guide your meditation, consider downloading a free meditation app or following along with a guided meditation video online.
6. Consider seeing a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
In CBT, you will work with your therapist to identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and develop positive habits to replace them. Your therapist will also provide you with tools and techniques to better manage and cope with stress.
Therapy provides a safe space to express your concerns and emotions, allowing you to release pent-up tension and stress. Your health insurance provider may offer a list of therapists in your area that are covered by your plan, and many employers offer an employee assistance program (EAP) (1) that covers short-term mental health care for personal problems. However, EAPs may only cover a limited number of sessions, so be sure to check in advance.
How frequently you see your therapist is up to you. If you require more support, weekly sessions may be helpful. However, make sure to check with your health insurance company regarding any limits to the number of sessions they will cover.
7. Organize your leisure time in a way that leaves no room for thoughts about work.
By scheduling activities for your after-work hours, you will have fewer opportunities to dwell on work-related matters. At the beginning of each week, decide how you will spend your evenings, whether it is meeting up with friends or running errands. On Thursday or Friday, plan out your weekend as well.
To stay organized, use a planner or a calendar app on your phone to keep track of your plans. Don’t just fill your schedule with social activities, as it is equally important to have some downtime to unwind. However, make sure to come up with ways to spend that time, such as reading a book or playing with your pets.
8. Engage in a new hobby during your free time.
Use your cognitive resources to acquire a new skill or participate in activities such as baking, woodworking, or gaming. When selecting a hobby, consider your interests, childhood activities, or things you’ve always wanted to try. Dedicate yourself to practicing or engaging in the hobby for at least three days a week.
If you have trouble learning or participating, do not become discouraged. Give yourself time to adjust because it takes time to master something new. The more you engage in your hobby, the better you will become and the more fun you will have.
Numerous free online courses are available for learning everything from languages to computer programming. Choose a hobby that is completely unrelated to your job.
For instance, if you work as an accountant, select a creative hobby such as painting or playing an instrument instead of something that engages the same part of your brain as work, such as mastering Excel.
9. Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day to alleviate stress.
Exercise not only enhances endorphin levels in the brain, leading to a more positive mood, but also releases tension and lowers stress. Moreover, when you concentrate on your workout, whether it is counting reps or taking steps, you are not thinking about work, which is a win-win situation.
To keep yourself more engaged, select activities that are challenging, such as interval or circuit training, over repetitive exercises such as long-distance running.
If you are short on time, divide your workout time into smaller, manageable parts, such as three 10-minute walks or six 5-minute sets of pushups and sit-ups spread throughout the day.
10. Participating in social activities with people outside of work can be a great way to take your mind off of work-related stress.
Consider joining a social group such as a book club, a hiking group, or a recreational sports team to connect with others who share your interests. Online platforms like Meetup.com can help you find groups that match your preferences in your local area.
Additionally, ask your friends if they know of any groups or events you can attend. By engaging in social activities, you can reduce stress, make new connections, and broaden your horizons.
11. To fully recharge, plan and take a vacation without work.
Prior to leaving, make sure you have completed your pending work, and someone is covering your duties while you are away. Don’t take your work computer or phone, and focus on enjoying your trip without worrying about work.
Plan activities to keep you busy and explore your vacation destination. Consider taking a “staycation” (2) if you cannot afford or take a long vacation. Even a few days off at home can help you reset.
Spend a few weeks planning your getaway by reading travel books, looking at pictures of your destination, and creating an itinerary to shift your focus away from work. Additionally, set an out-of-office email to avoid checking work-related messages.
12. Create routines that help you ease into and out of work mode.
It’s difficult for your mind to immediately switch off when you leave the office, so establish “transition rituals” that bridge the gap between leaving work and arriving home. This can include calling a friend during your commute, listening to an audiobook, or going to the gym.
These rituals will help you decompress before you get home and prevent you from bringing work-related thoughts and stress with you. You can also establish morning transition rituals that help you prepare for the workday, such as listening to a podcast or stopping for coffee.
13. To leave work at the office, review your to-do list at the end of the day.
Check off what you’ve accomplished and add everything you want to get done the next day. This will relieve anxiety, so you won’t be obsessing over your list at night.
Keep a running to-do list in a notebook or use a list-making app on your smartphone or tablet to improve organization and planning, which will decrease how much you think about work.
14. Create a daily routine where you disconnect from all electronics at least once a day.
Whether it’s during dinner or after a specific time at night, commit to unplugging and resist the urge to check emails or answer calls. You can also sleep with your phone on airplane mode or use the “Do Not Disturb” setting to prevent any work-related disturbances.
Consider having a separate work phone and personal phone to avoid distractions from work notifications while using your phone for leisure activities. For a more extended break, consider a full weekend digital detox where you unplug from Friday evening to Sunday evening, allowing you to disconnect from work and reduce stress.
15. Create a specific area in your home exclusively for work purposes to minimize the likelihood of thinking about work when you’re in relaxation mode.
A guest room or an office space may work well for you if you must do some work at home. Avoid working in areas like your kitchen table or living room couch that you frequently use for non-work-related activities.
Otherwise, your brain might connect these areas with work, which could be counterproductive to your efforts to separate work from home life. Additionally, never bring work devices, such as laptops or phones, into your bedroom, as it may interfere with your sleep patterns, causing you to associate the room with work rather than rest.
16. Express yourself briefly when talking about work at home.
Rather than using long rants to discuss your workday, provide short answers when asked about your day. Refrain from bringing up work-related problems and focus on other topics during your conversations with your family or friends.
You can inform them that you want to limit the discussion about work and request that they keep you accountable if you start talking too much about it.
In summary, here are some ways to stop thinking about work:
Engage in hobbies or activities outside of work
Take a work-free vacation or plan a “staycation” to recharge
Develop routines to transition from work to home, and vice versa
Review and organize your to-do list at the end of the day
Set boundaries for electronics use, and consider a “digital detox”
Designate a specific space in your home for work
Limit how much you talk about work at home, and try to focus on other topics of conversation
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to stop thinking about work. I sincerely hope its contents have been a good help to you.