Work is like the shady ex from that one Cranberries song: Do you have to let it linger, never ending to-do list? And when you're working from home, as many of us still are, it's especially easy for work to take up a lot of free rent in your mind. That's why it's important to have a wind-down routine that eases you out of your workday. Unfortunately, it's not like the clock chiming 6 p.m. automatically causes all thoughts of work to eddy from your brain or those Slack notifications to stop pinging. "The main input that needs some reevaluation here is our addiction to hustle, and our lack of attention to our own well-being," says author, astrologer, and spiritual teacher Sue Hunt. "We can have a love of success and a desire to meet our own goals, and deeply care for ourselves along the way."
"Winding down from your day requires a conscious effort," adds licensed psychotherapist and board-certified holistic health practitioner Debbie Gottlieb, founder of Mindbrand Method™. While "effort" may be the last thing you want to give after a day of work, it's more about being mindful. Here are expert tips on how to create a wind-down routine that eases you out of your workday.
1. Create a boundary during work hours
"When at work, stay focused rather than using social media or texting," Dr. Carla Marie Manly previously told Well+Good. "By having this boundary during work hours, you’ll not feel the conscious or unconscious urge to make up for work tasks during your off hours." Hunt also recommends spending some time working alone at the end of the workday, "so you aren't co-regulating with co-workers, even if it's over Zoom."
2. Don't leave it up to choice
"Meaning, set the systems in place in your house so when you're exhausted you reach for relaxation, healthy food, a work out, or a mediation right away," says Hunt. "This is also the 'perk' from working from home, you can set up your systems and choices in a way that honors your well-being." Gottlieb adds that it's a good idea to make a list of wind-down activities that you enjoy, so that you have them in mind and can choose what works for you depending on what you need that day. She recommends things like taking a walk, yoga, reading a book, meditating, and dancing.
Hunt's number one activity is to lie on your back with your legs up against the wall, as this is "easy, simple and effective at regulation." To reduce stimulation from light, you can place a scarf over your head.
3. Check in with yourself
Your wind-down routine may look different after a day filled with Zoom meetings than a day of work that's more solitary in nature. "Get to know yourself and what you need based on the day," says Gottlieb. Sometimes quiet time will be best, sometimes activity, sometimes meeting friends. Make sure to check in with yourself in the middle of the day so you see what would be the best way to wind down at the end of your day.
4. Set a timer
"This way, you know this amount of time is specifically for that purpose," says Gottlieb.
Overall, try to create at least two hours of non-work time before you head to bed—because a minute or two just isn't enough. "It’s unrealistic to think the central nervous system can 'bounce back' with a short meditation, or a quick self-care hack," says Hunt. "Be mindful of your circadian rhythms, and realize it takes hours to wind down from an intense workday." But the benefits—a clear sense of "me time" and a mental break from that to-do list—are well worth the time investment.
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