How to switch off after work (including tips and examples)

Updated 4 December 2022

Managing your workload may be difficult sometimes, causing you to think about your job in your free time. Letting work invade your personal life often leaves you feeling overburdened and burnt out. Learning more about the ways of relaxing after work can help you rest your mind and body. In this article, we look at what switching off means, review how to switch off, explore the benefits of doing so and provide some tips.

What does switching off mean?

Switching off means finding ways to stop thinking about work outside of your normal working hours. This helps you relax and prepare for the next day. As many people work from home or do hybrid work part-time in the office, it's important to establish a boundary between your personal and your professional life.

It may be very tempting to check your emails after work or think about what happened during the day. Making this a habit is usually detrimental to you in the long term, affecting your physical and mental health and impacting your relationships with others. You might relax by simply watching TV or listening to music. The main idea is that you do something different from what you might normally do at work.

Related: 8 tips for the management of stress when you're at work

How to switch off

If you want to learn how to switch off after work, consider the following ideas:

1. Reorganise your personal spaces

Organising your personal space is a key part of distancing yourself from work. Do this by keeping your bedroom and home tidy and by creating a space where you may relax and unwind. Decorate these spaces with items that make you feel relaxed, such as a few plants or pictures to remind you of happy memories or what you like.

Tidying up your personal space is valuable when working from home. If you work in the dining room or kitchen, for example, tidying away all the items you use for work helps to establish a boundary between work and home life. For instance, you might have a designated cupboard to store all your belongings. Putting your computer away also helps you resist any temptation to check your work emails after work.

Related: 10 simple tips to help when you have too much work

2. Do some exercise

Exercise helps you sleep better, clears your mind and lets you relax. Light exercise like yoga is particularly good for this, as it clears your body of negative energy and stress. Going for a short jog gives you a chance to get out of the house if you want some alone time after work. If you enjoy going to the gym, working out may help you distance yourself from a busy day at work.

Related: Disadvantages of working from home and how to mitigate them

3. Go for a walk

A short mindful walk is a good way of changing your surroundings and getting you outside. Try to notice different sounds, smells and sights to distract your mind. Try to give your mind something else to focus on. If you have a dog, going for a walk with it is a great way to explore the outdoors.

Related: How to reduce anxiety in the workplace (with steps)

4. Cook new or favourite meals

Cooking is a great way to refocus your mind after a busy day. If you need stimulation, challenge yourself to use leftovers, get creative or learn how to cook a new recipe to add excitement to your week and nurture your physical self. Cooking is also a great way to de-stress, especially if you cook while listening to music or chatting with another person. You might also make your favourite meal for someone else, like your significant other, best friend or family member.

5. Have a relaxing bath

A relaxing bath is a great way to relax after work. Consider using candles and a bath bomb to make the experience more enjoyable. Dim the lights or turn them off completely while in the bath so that nothing disturbs your relaxation time. Use soothing music such as meditation tracks or classical music to create a more tranquil atmosphere.

Related: The best music to relieve stress (plus the top 10 songs)

6. Meet up with friends

Socialising, especially with friends, may help you gain your energy and a positive outlook, and it's also a good way to share your concerns with someone else. You may meet up online or in person and do an activity together. Socialising with friends helps to distract your mind from work, so planning events in your calendar each month gives you something to anticipate.

7. Change out of your work clothes

Try to always change out of your work clothes and into something more relaxing. You might do this by putting on your favourite pyjamas or just wearing loose, comfortable clothes, like a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. This signals to your brain that you're entering the home-time phase and helps you understand that you're now away from the workplace.

8. Watch your favourite film or TV series

Watching your favourite film or TV series is probably the easiest way to relax after work. Think about what genre of film or show you want to watch. You might choose a comedy you haven't seen before, which gives your brain something different to focus on and helps keep you entertained.

9. Create a diary of your workdays

When leaving work, it may help you to keep a diary. Write what you did each day and how it made you feel, answering questions such as What did I achieve today?, How did that make me feel? and Did it make me happy, sad or angry?. Try to be as honest with yourself. If something makes you unhappy, write it down. This helps you identify patterns in your daily life which may cause stress.

10. Organise your to-do list

Checking in with your to-do list at the start, middle and end of each workday makes you feel more in control of your tasks and helps you accommodate setbacks as they arise. List the deadlines and interim deadlines for each task, or use a productivity tool to help, such as the Pomodoro Technique or Eisenhower Matrix. By making sure you complete all the necessary tasks for the day before leaving the office, you may reduce anxiety for the next day.

Related: What is the Eisenhower matrix? (Plus how you can use it)

11. Ask for help

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you feel burnt out. Discuss your workload with your manager or delegate more tasks to the staff you manage. You may also wish to ask colleagues for their advice. During busy times at work, you may also consider asking partners and family members to help with other tasks in your personal life, or you may consider getting professional help from a counsellor or doctor if your health is struggling.

12. Learn a new skill

Learning a new skill, even if it's as simple as knitting, may help you relax after work. There are several reasons for this. First, learning a new skill is usually enjoyable, especially when you're doing it with others. It also forces your brain to focus on the task, which helps you forget about work. Finally, the more you practise something new, the better you get at it and the more confident you feel. Having to attend classes or make progress may also help you finish your work on time.

Related: What are stress relievers? 10 effective stress relievers

Benefits of switching off

There are a number of benefits to distancing yourself from work during your free time. These include:

  • you recuperate physically and mentally, allowing you to deal with work pressures and be more productive

  • you broaden your personal life, so you put work problems into perspective

  • you sleep better, as less anxiety causes fewer sleep problems

  • you create more time for relaxation and recreation, improving your well-being and confidence

  • you improve your relationships with others

Importance of switching off

Many people struggle to relax after work, particularly during times of stress and change. Typically, these people feel overwhelmed, anxious and restless. This may cause issues such as poor sleeping, reduced appetite or overeating, fatigue, stress and depression, irritability, trouble concentrating and difficulty maintaining relationships.

Distancing yourself is a good skill to learn, as it may result in improved productivity at work and lower levels of stress during the working day. You're also able to concentrate better and handle setbacks more easily. Reducing stress in all areas of life helps you feel calmer, more rested and more capable of contributing to relationships while achieving personal goals.

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