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Why switching off from work is vital for mental health

by Heat Recruitment

After a busy day at the office, it’s only natural to come home and ruminate on particular challenges, conversations or future projects. If it wasn’t hard enough to switch off from work in the past, disconnecting in the digital age is near impossible. Each new notification gives us another reason to reply, another reason to “just check on something” – before long, you’re back at work: the lights in the office may be switched off, but the one in your brain is firmly on.

If this sounds familiar, you’re certainly not alone: a recent study revealed 70% of employees find it difficult to unwind after work and worry about their job outside working hours. Unfortunately, the side effects of an always-on society can be counter-productive and damaging to both our physical and mental health.

While staying late now and then is a fact of working life, making a habit of taking work home can lead to increased anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance and even cardiovascular disease. However, as technology makes it ever-trickier to turn off from our professional lives, how can we learn to switch off for the sake of our well-being?

Finish what you started

When your favourite series ends on a cliffhanger, it’s all consuming. Similarly, when you leave a task unfinished before going home, it’s hard to think about anything else. This is a phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect – we need closure to stop our wandering minds from fixating on a particular thing. Make an effort to finish the task you’re working on before leaving: if the task is too big to finish in a day, break it up into smaller chunks, and try to tackle one every day.

Accept your limits

There are only so many hours in a day, so unless you have successfully managed to clone yourself, you aren’t going to meet your unrealistic expectations without sacrificing your mental health. There will always be another task that could be tackled if you don’t make a point of switching off: accept your limits and remember, the world won’t end because you took an evening to unwind. If you’re contracted between the hours of 9 and 5, you aren’t expected to dedicate your down-time to getting the job done quicker.

Do not disturb

We’re all entitled to a relax outside of work, but digital communications can easily coax us back in to the grind at a moment’s notice. Luckily, there are a few “life hacks” we can do to tackle the temptation of technology. It starts with removing work emails from your phone: if somebody urgently needs you, they’ll call you. If not, they can wait until the morning. If you’re looking to go one step further, most smartphones now come equipped with a ‘Do Not Disturb’ function, allowing you to prevent all communications and notifications from alerting you past a certain time.

Shift your focus

Sometimes, the best way to disconnect from the working day is to dive straight into a hobby to take your mind off it. Exercising will trigger an endorphin rush and boost your mood, but you may also find satisfaction from starting a personal project such as learning a new language or instrument – even reading a good book can distract you from the pressures of work. The trick is to find something that absorbs you completely: the more you focus on enjoying your down-time, the closer you will be to a healthy work-life balance.

At Heat Recruitment, we’re dedicated to improving the mental wellbeing of each of our employees – it’s the motivation behind the range of initiatives we’ve undertaken. Are you looking for your next career step in recruitment? Get in touch with us today.

By Hollie Thomas