Work life balance

How to switch off your work brain at the end of the day

- April 10, 2023 3 MIN READ
happy same sex couple watching tv in the evening

You love your family, but for some reason, you are always called away from them and back into work. It appears there is always something that needs to be done. It’s only small and will be quick but needs to be addressed now. And then it takes up the whole evening. Not switching off is a big problem for business owners, writes behavioural scientist Darren Fleming.

There are two main ways that we don’t switch off at the end of the day.

The first is when we mentally take work home with us. We do this when we don’t stop thinking of work when we get home. When we’re at home but mentally at work, we tend to relate to those around us as we would with people in the workplace. If you’ve ever had your significant other say, “Don’t speak to me like I’m one of your employees”, then you know what I mean.

The second way we don’t turn it off at the end of the day is when we switch it back on. Come knock-off time you might be able to leave work at work and focus on your family, but when dishes are done and the kids have gone to bed, you start thinking about work. You just quickly check your emails to see if anything important has come in, and that is the end of you.

Physically you might be sitting on the couch, but mentally you’re at work. Or worse, you’ve got the laptop out and are deep in emails while your partner watches TV on their own. Good thing it’s a show you don’t like.

The sensations of work

If you take a very close look at what is happening when you can’t switch off, you will see that there is an energetic sensation in your body. It is either drawing you to keep thinking about work when you get home, or it is drawing you back when you’re not focused elsewhere.

Or, if you’re in an environment that you don’t particularly like, there might be a sensation driving you back to work so you can avoid the place you don’t like.

If you want to be able to switch off at night, it’s these sensations – and not the thoughts about work – that need to be deactivated. Deactivating them is simply a matter of paying attention to them.

Father cooking with young boy in kitchen

Feel your thoughts

Every thought we have generates a sensation in our body. It is easy to spot the big ones – love, fear, anger, pride etc. But they are there for every other thought as well. We may not have conscious awareness of them, but our body will.

When we experience these sensations, the body reacts to them by creating thoughts. These thoughts have the aim to help the body experience more of the sensations it likes and less of the ones it doesn’t. These thoughts then create more sensations which in turn create more thoughts.

This cycle is why we find it hard to stop thinking about work – or anything else. It’s a feedback loop driven by sensations. If you want to switch off from work when you get home, the only way to achieve this is by deactivating the sensations in your body. You do this by experiencing them without reacting.

Experience the sensations

Deactivating the sensations is a matter of experiencing the sensations in your body without reacting. You don’t have to do anything other than pay attention. When you feel the urge to check emails, become aware of what you are experiencing in your body and give your full attention to it.

When you observe the sensations, don’t label them (I want to check my emails) or get caught up in a story about them (I’m waiting on something important). Just observe the sensation. When you do, it will dissipate. When it dissipates, it won’t generate any new thoughts. Then there won’t be any new thought-generated sensations that can drag you back to work.

It won’t take long – perhaps a minute. If you can’t stop thinking about an event from the day, identify what sensations the thoughts are triggering in your body and just observe them.

Paying attention to the energetic sensations in your body without reacting to them is the only way to stop the cycle of generating thoughts about work. When you can stop the cycle, you will be able to switch it off.

The process takes practice, but every time you do this it weakens the sensations and reduces the thoughts.

This article was first published on Kochie’s Business Builders, read the original here.

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It’s time to switch off: The dangers of working from home and how to avoid them

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