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A tool for achieving balance between work and home

As a psychotherapist, I often counsel high-level professionals who suffer from stress and overwork. It is less the exception and quite the rule for people to obsess about the day or bring their unfinished business home and continue doing work via iPhone and email. What’s worse is spending the evening thinking about what transpired during the work day and thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow and never experiencing a break.

Utilizing the tool of compartmentalizing can help establish a break from work. That is not to say that there are not professions and situations that warrant continued work and attention, but the following tool can help facilitate the ability to leave work behind when you struggle with setting limits around work and leisure time. To transition from work to home, the following might be helpful:

Even before you leave your workplace, you begin the process of leaving work at work and allowing yourself to decompress. And to do that, try completing emails and communications before leaving work and being mindful that postponing those tasks for later in the evening is a purposeful extension of the work day. Working excessively long work days might eventually lead to resentment, burnout and compromised health. Ideally, taking work home and unnecessarily long work days should be something you do on occasion rather than a way of life.

The process of transitioning begins as soon as you leave your physical work site. Rather than thinking about what you plan to do now that you finished work, you instead begin processing your work day. During your commute home, you specifically and purposefully think about what happened during your work day, keeping in mind that you have until you reach home to think about the day. And if there is something you really have to do before tomorrow, plan to do it within the first hour that you arrive home. The commute should provide the opportunity to make decisions about what needs to be done tomorrow by allowing yourself to freely think over the day’s events and whatever unfinished business might be following you home.

Walking at some point in your commute is a great way to process the day and clear your mind. Sometimes walking to the next subway stop, getting off the bus one stop earlier, or parking a distance from home gives you some precious time to transition. The goal is to walk into your home and leave the work day behind so that you give your brain the needed rest it deserves.

The minute you walk into your home, you remind yourself and give yourself permission to stop thinking about work and begin being present and mindful that you are home. And when your mind wanders back to work, you remind yourself that you can think about work tomorrow and not today anymore. If that is impossible, remind yourself that not setting boundaries and limits to how much you work compromises your mental and physical health.

We don’t get to do today more than once, so our choices to overwork have long-term consequences. The goal is to achieve a balance between work and play. And isn’t play more fun?

More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today