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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

How to leave work behind when you go home for the weekend

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

The modern workplace feels unrecognisable in comparison with what we might have seen a few decades ago. And in many ways, changes in technology and communications have made our lives easier. But as we have become increasingly connected, the lines between home and work have blurred for many of us. Metro asked for my thoughts on coping with work stress, and how to leave work behind when you go home for the weekend, click here for the full article. I've also spoken to Startups about phones, boundaries and work stress, click here for the full article.

When we consider reducing stress levels, there are some generic suggestions that you might hear. Switch off your screens and keep yourself busy with non work-related plans. But while this advice is well-meaning, it’s also easy to ignore. So, let’s look at these suggestions, and consider some more tailored ways to help you to leave work behind when you go home for the weekend:

Understanding your stress

The first step is to understand your stress. How it makes you feel, how it ebbs and flows, and what triggers it. Challenge yourself to spend a week tuning into your ‘stress sensations’ - throughout your working week and when you go home for the weekend. What happens to your breathing and bodily sessions when you feel stressed? How long does it last, what triggers it? Are there any lifestyle factors involved – do you feel more stressed after caffeine, sugar or poor sleep? Are certain people or tasks triggers for your stress? When we audit our ‘stress sensations’ we discover patterns that help us to understand ourselves better. I have written in more detail about this topic - including our 'work identity' in a previous article. You’ll find it if you click here.

Leaving stress at work

1/ Proactively managing your triggers when you’re not at work

Now that you’ve tuned into your ‘stress sensations’, ask yourself – what do you need to do to keep calm and relaxed when you go home for the weekend? Think about how you can apply what you have learnt to your patterns of caffeine consumption, sleep hygiene and other lifestyle factors.

2/ Switching off screens

In the book ‘Stolen Focus’, Johann Hari adeptly shows us how screens remove our ability to relax, destress and focus on things that are important to us. Think about what’s stopping you from reducing the time that you spend online when you go home for the weekend. Experiment with using downtime features on your phone. Notice if you make excuses for yourself, do you really need to be accessible 24/7? Do you really need to use google every time a question comes up?

3/ Consider the work-related topics – or colleagues – who trigger your stress levels

This might highlight what’s really going on for you. What is it that’s really worrying you? And what does it tell you about yourself and your behaviour patterns. In counselling we can explore these in greater depth. Often, we notice patterns of ‘people pleasing’ or self-criticism or catastrophising that lead to a cycle of stress and worry. If it’s a particular colleague, be curious about how their persona or behaviour stresses you out. Maybe they remind you of someone or trigger difficult feelings. And do you find yourself focusing on these topics or colleagues when you’re outside of work. If you feel the stresses coming on, visualise yourself screwing up a piece of paper and throwing it into an imaginary bin.

4/ Give yourself a structured stress timeout

If it’s hard to ignore your work stress, set a timer. Give yourself an allocated amount of time, and a pen and paper. On your paper, make a list of all the things you are stressed about, placed in two columns: things you can control, and things you can’t. When the time’s up, give yourself a couple of minutes to reflect on the exercise, and then see if this approach is helpful. This exercise can be particularly helpful at the end of the working week.

5/ Boundaries

I’ve talked about screen time generally, but if you’re worrying about work over the weekend, are you also doing work in your own time? If so, is this a genuine requirement of your workplace? Or perhaps you’re simply trying to live up an unrealistic expectation of what you can achieve. Try implementing boundaries around when you do work or communicate with colleagues. Consider being a role-model. If you hold boundaries in a way that helps you to destress, you may have a positive impact on others too.

Boundaries are even more important if your home is your workplace. Think proactively about how you can create real (or metaphorical) boundaries so that when you send that final email, save that final document, finish that final telephone call, you are ready to unwind and relax until Monday morning.

6/ Be specific about what motivates you

Think about how you will feel if you manage to switch off and leave your stress at work. Maybe you’ll be more connected with others, maybe you’ll be more motivated to get things done, or maybe you’ll simply give yourself that true duvet day that you deserve. Make a list. Write it down. Consider sharing it with others if that helps you to be accountable.

Keen to explore more?

I love working with people to help them to understand themselves. In counselling we build a relationship where we can look at what might be causing your stress and how you can work to overcome it, so that you can feel more comfortable and confident in everyday life. If you’d like to learn more, click here to contact me, or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.

Click here to view the original article in Metro.

How to leave work behind when you go home for the weekend

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