Setting boundaries between your work and home lives isn’t easy when the two take place in exactly the same spot.
It’s a reality you’ll know all too well if you’ve been working from home during the pandemic; despite your best intentions to log off at 5:30pm and spend the evening relaxing, it’s all too easy to get sucked back in – to answer ‘one more email’ or prepare for the following day.
And even if you manage to physically switch off from work by shutting down your laptop or stepping away from your desk, there’s still your mental state to contend with – without the transition from office to home to give you that space to breathe, it can be hard to put the worries of the day to one side and enjoy your evening.
It’s one of the main reasons why so many of us have been struggling with stress and burnout over the last couple of months – we’re not just trying to work against the backdrop of a global pandemic, we’re also working longer hours and struggling to create distance between ourselves and our jobs.
As many a viral tweet has rightly pointed out, it’s more like we’re living at work than working from home – and the pressure of that can have real implications for our mental health.
With this in mind then, prioritising a work/life balance – and actually sticking to it – is one of the best things we can do to look after our wellbeing at this time. And one of the main parts of achieving that work/life balance is being able to switch off from work in the first place.
Although we’re not able to create physical distance between ourselves and our jobs, there are things we can do to help our brain switch off at the end of the day.
So without further ado, here’s our bumper guide to all the things you can do at the end of the day to help create that mental transition.
1. Tidy up
If your workspace is used for other things in your home, make sure to tidy away everything you use for work at the end of the day.
The term ‘out of sight, out of mind’ has never been so apt – not only will the act of tidying help to create a boundary between your workday and the evening, but putting your laptop away will help you to resist any urges to ‘check in’ later on.
2. Write it all down
If work worries tend to play on your mind throughout the evening, use a ‘brain dump’ activity to get everything you need to remember down on paper. It doesn’t need to be fancy – simply grab a piece of paper and write down everything that you want to be reminded of the following morning.
By writing everything down, you’re less likely to spend the evening fretting about everything you need to do the next day – and you’ll likely feel more organised, too.
3. Move your body
Working out at the end of the day is a great way to take your focus off of work and shake off any stress you might be holding onto, too. Don’t worry if you’re not up for a high energy workout after work, either – doing something less strenuous like yoga or mobility work can still help you to unwind.
Try to plan out what you’re going to do before work (you could even lay out your equipment and clothes), so that as soon as the working day ends you can dive straight into it and begin the transition.
4. Go for a walk
If you’re someone who really needs that physical distance to switch off from work, heading out for a walk after work could make a big difference to your headspace – not only because it distances you from your working environment, but because it mimics a commute-like journey.
You could even try practising mindfulness while you’re walking to relieve stress and take your mind off of the events of the day.
5. Cook dinner
Cooking dinner may sound like a simple suggestion, but you’ll be surprised how big a difference it can make to your headspace.
It’s great because it doesn’t just engage you mentally, but physically, too – you won’t be able to log back on to your laptop or check emails when you’ve got vegetables to chop!
6. Have a bath
If you like to plan ahead of time you could even start running the bath half an hour before you finish, so you have no choice but to clamber in as soon as you shut your laptop.
7. Talk to a friend
One of the best ways to ensure you switch off from work on time is to set yourself a non-negotiable appointment, and scheduling in a chat with your friends is a great way to do just that.
Having a chat is also a brilliant way to lower your stress levels and distract yourself from anything you’re worried about – perfect for straight after that end-of-day rush.
8. Get crafty
Similar to cooking, sitting down with a craft after work is a great way to occupy your hands and mind so you’re able to transition into a more relaxed headspace.
9. Listen to a podcast
Instead of letting your mind obsess over all the tasks you didn’t get done in the day, try plugging into your favourite podcast and letting the conversation distract you.
If you used to listen to a podcast while on your commute this is also a great way to mimic that transition and schedule in a bit of ‘me’ time – crucial if you’re struggling with your stress levels during the pandemic.
10. Do a puzzle
It might sound silly, but there’s something about doing a jigsaw puzzle which helps to keep your attention off of anything but the puzzle itself – perfect if you often find yourself worrying about everything that needs to get done the following day.
Doing an enjoyable activity after work will also give you something to look forward to throughout the day, which will help to keep you motivated.
11. Look after your skin
Whether or not you’re wearing make-up while working from home, cleansing your skin after you finish work is a great way to physically and metaphorically wipe the stress of the day away.
12. Give yourself a facial massage
You don’t need to be an expert to know we hold a lot of tension in our facial muscles, so doing a quick facial massage after work is a great way to relieve that pressure and encourage relaxation.
All you need to get started is a facial oil, rich moisturiser or cleanser, after which you can check out our facial massage guide.
13. Change clothes
Whether or not you’ve managed to get out of your loungewear, changing into a different outfit for the evening is an easy way to mark that transition from work to relaxation.
Slipping into something comfier like a pair of PJs may also help you to feel more relaxed.
If working during the pandemic is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues and the stress of relying on technology to the threat of redundancy and the anxiety of applying for a new job, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.
So, what can we do about it? We’ve got a plan.
Our new Work It Out campaign, supported by Mind, aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health while you’re stuck at home. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including to anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of WFH wellbeing.
For more information, including how to complete your Work 5 A Day, you can check out our guide to getting started.
As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.