5 ways to separate work and home life
With any job, it can be difficult to completely separate work from your home life. Work-life balance becomes blurred, you can’t switch off when you get home, and find yourself missing the important things because you’re thinking about work too much. In the helping and health professionals, this effect can become even more of a problem, as workers take on the burdens of their clients and find themselves stressed and at risk of burn out.
But, there are techniques and routines that you can put into place to help you create space between your work life from your home life. Practicing these will help you find more joy in your job but also leave it at the door when you leave. Here are 5 ways to separate work and home life.
1) Remind yourself that your job is what you do, not who are you.
This can be confusing with a lot of mixed messages on social media “Love what you do and never work a day in your life!” “Find your passion and live that!”. But the reality is, most people work to earn money (otherwise we would all just volunteer, and society doesn’t work that way). You can love your job and feel passionate about what you do, and still find it hard some days to do your work. Or, you can not love your job but you are doing what it takes to support yourself and your family. You do what you have to do!
Remind yourself that your job is what you do, not who you are. We are so much more complex and layered than simply being our careers. I am a Psychologist, but I am a hell of a lot more than this!
So when you are struggling with the work-life balance, remind yourself of this and give yourself permission to have a separate life outside of your career.
2) Create routines for the work-to-home transition
Sometimes the trickiest part is the travel home. Spending that commute stewing over what a colleague said, stressing about work you didn’t finish, thinking about the emotional state of that client. So do yourself a favour and have a routine for the work-to-home transition. Some good ideas are:
- Blast some upbeat music in your car or headphone on public transport.
- Listen to affirmations or inspiring podcasts.
- If you drive, take the more scenic route home. It may take 10 more minutes, but choosing more nature over the freeway can make a great difference!
- Plan exercise after work. Stop in at a yoga studio, go for a walk with friends, and sweat out that hard day.
- Once you get home, change clothes immediately from your ‘work’ outfit to a ‘home’ outfit. Sometimes it is the smallest thing that makes the biggest difference.
3) Imagine a mental barrier
If you are a visual person, having a mental barrier that rises when you start work and lowers when you leave, can be a helpful technique. Before starting work, close your eyes for a couple of minutes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine your guard or bubble raising up to protect you. Know that when this bubble goes around you, you have an extra level of protection from the stress, drama, or emotion of the day. This doesn’t mean you will be bad at your job, or cold to people, or distant. But it does mean that you recognise the importance of protecting yourself just a little bit.
When you finish work, do the same thing and lower that barrier for when you get home.
4) Limit work discussions at home and vice versa
There is nothing wrong with sharing your day with loved ones at home. But just be careful how often you are doing this because it might be doing more harm than good. Having a vent to others can be a great way to let out steam and get some advice or support. But doing it too much can result in patterns where you come home and immediately start the negative talk about your day. First of all, consider how this might feel to the person you’re venting to? Not so great I bet. Also, it means you are bringing your work stresses home with you every night, and not practicing that work-life separation that you need. Before you start to vent, ask yourself: Am I needing support and help right now, or am I just continuing to creating negativity and stress in my day?
5) Practice mindfulness and build self awareness
Mindfulness routines can be a wonderful way to both manage your stress levels, and also separate your work life and home life. Mindfulness helps you to focus on the present moment, rather than the future or the past, and also helps you to simply notice what is happening around and within you, rather than judge it. There are several ways you can build mindfulness into your routine:
- Start your day off with a quick 5 minute mindfulness of the breath
- Take mini breaks at work and shut your door (or go to the bathroom) and take 5 deep, slow breaths, noticing how your body feels and what emotional state you’re in.
- When you get home (or on the way home if you do public transport), listen to a mindfulness track to create more separation from your day.
Remember, mindfulness is not about forcing your mind to go blank. It’s ok if you struggle to let go of the work stress that you had that day. The more you practice though, the easier it will become to sink into that meditative state and feel the calming effects.
I hope that helped! Feel free to comment below or contact me with any questions or suggestions of your own that help you separate your work and home life.