Self-Care Solutions: How to Leave Work at Work Without Compromising Your Job or Your Health

Gone are the 9-to-5 days where you clock in, clock out, and leave work at work. As electronics feed the need for instant communication, building the misconception that being busy is better, lines get blurred and we sacrifice living our best life.

Picture this: You’re sound asleep and then your cellphone starts jumping around on your nightstand like a hot potato. Or maybe you’re on a date and your purse starts to vibrate. Sound familiar? When we keep our cellphones, and more specifically our jobs, as close to us as our purse or nightstand, we are giving up the freedom to have a balanced, healthy life.

Living without boundaries to your work is exhausting, and stretching out office hours can stretch out a healthy immune system too. No one wants to be chronically fatigued, anxious, or stuck with reoccurring stress, a cold, or worse. Life is stressful enough!

Follow these tips for setting boundaries so you can efficiently juggle all the important elements of your life. 

 1. Develop a mutual understanding with your boss of what’s expected. Do you have set hours? What happens if your boss reaches out to you after 7 p.m.? Is it OK sometimes or regularly? Are after-hours messages optional to respond to?

 2. Establish how much time you need to do your job well, and then how much time you need for your personal care, home life, and social life. If you have flexible hours, it can be easy to put work first — just don’t let it be the only focus.

 3. Set boundaries with your cellphone. If your employer doesn’t specify, ask about the parameters of your work boundaries. If they are still unclear, create your own rules. For example, make a work curfew and set vacation replies that say you don’t answer texts or emails while on personal vacations.

 4. If setting boundaries with your cellphone use becomes difficult, inquire about getting a cellphone just for work while keeping one for your personal life.

 5. Imagine that you wear an invisible suit while you’re at work, and as you leave, imagine taking the suit off and hanging it up at the office. Using imagery to mentally detach from work and work-related issues can help you separate it from your personal life.

 6. Before you leave or finish work for the day, take 5 to 10 minutes to power off all electronics and to meditate. If meditating is difficult, simply close your eyes and rest your palms in your lap. Listen to the inhale and exhale of your breath and notice how your ribcage expands and contracts. Taking this time to breathe without distraction is important. It will clear your head and help you move on with your day without your mind racing about work matters that can wait until tomorrow.

 If you regularly work late hours and typically go right from your laptop to your bed, it’s worth the added 15 to 30 minutes to stay awake to decompress. Taking time to rest your mind and rid your brain of electronic signals helps your brain rest while you are asleep. When sleep is less than restful, your stress hormones increase, appetite increases, and productivity levels for the next day decrease.

7. Make more time for you. Schedule regular yoga, personal training, therapy, massages, acupuncture, or even just time to sit on your couch. Reserve the time and keep yourself accountable.

While it’s easy to let work take priority, don’t let it prattle around in your head during your off hours. Set boundaries that satisfy your boss and clients and also keep you living a happy, healthy, and balanced life!