How to leave the stresses of work behind

Never stop checking emails…constantly aware of your bleeping phone notifications…zoning out in the middle of non-work conversations…sound familiar? You may be suffering from Work Saturation Syndrome.

We all need to take a daily break from working life, but with ubiquitous smartphones and the growing expectation of constant availability, it’s easier said than done. However, your health, sanity and personal relationships depend on you being able to switch off thoughts of work and focus on heart and home.

After a hard day or a tough week at work, it can be tricky to leave all your stress at the front door, but the good news is that even with a limited amount of time you can create space to bring yourself back into balance and gain some much-needed perspective.

Follow these tips to help you leave work stress behind and really be present at home.

Before leaving the office (takes 5–10 minutes):

  1. Take five long, slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths, lengthening and deepening the exhale. Imagine you are exhaling stress and inhaling energy.
  2. Spend a moment in contemplation and immerse yourself in a memory of a time when you felt most happy and relaxed.
  3. Stand up and stretch.
  4. Use the Divided Attention Technique, a two-second exercise of attention and awareness, to differentiate yourself from your role at work. Note your internal space (you; the subject), and note the event taking place (the work you are doing or the work group you are part of; the object). Then note the space in which it takes place. Instead of focusing on subject versus object, perceive both at the same time. Let your gaze wander and concentrate on the space surrounding things – observe all that is around you. There is no need to judge in these situations and you can stop labelling them; you are just in the space. It is no longer something happening to you, but simply an event taking place.

On your journey home (takes 15+ minutes):

  1. List five things that are positive or amusing about a tense meeting or situation that you have just come out of.
  2. Write down your anxieties and contemplate them for a while, until you’re no longer feeling stressed about them and are bored of them.
  3. Action not reaction: our stress increases if we feel a work situation is out of our control – note the aspects you think you can control and focus on them, letting go of those aspects you can’t. Then put your notes away until tomorrow/next week.
  4. Go for a brisk walk, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Once you walk through the door (takes 10–15 minutes):

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  1. Be here now: too much of our time is spent reliving the past or worrying about the future. Once you’re home, focus on being in the present moment.
  2. Common sense: remember humour is a good way of blowing off steam, and practising gratitude can make you feel positive. Make a mental note of the first five things that make you smile or feel happy at home.
  3. Unwind by elevating your legs: lie on your back with your feet and calves on a chair so there is about a 90-degree bend at your hips and knees. Focus on relaxing your breath. 15–20 minutes in this ‘constructive rest’ position is equal to a 2-hour nap.
  4. Take a walk outside, if possible, or just sit in your garden/on your balcony. Breathe the fresh air and connect with nature.
  5. Listen to a piece of music you enjoy.

Six essential chair yoga poses to help you unwind:

1) Grounding

Sit on front of chair. Feet firmly grounded. Hands on thighs. Practice slow breathing – inhale (note to yourself ‘breathing in’) and exhale (note to yourself ‘breathing out’). Practise with your eyes closed, focusing on slow breaths, clearing your thoughts to just focus on the movement of the breath in all the parts of the body involved.

2) Arm stretch

Sit on chair. Feet shoulder width apart. Sit straight. Feet grounded. Gently engage core muscles. Lift arms to sides and overhead, lengthen the spine, hold and then lower. Repeat.

3) Chest opener

Sit on chair. Plant feet. Hold onto back of chair with hands and elbows bent. Press elbows towards each other and feel stretch in shoulders and opening your chest.

4) Backbend

Sit on chair. Plant feet. Interlace fingers behind your back (or hold edge of chair) and raise chest to ceiling, leading with the sternum and gently bending the back. Keep comfort in mind and don’t jam the neck backwards.

5) Leg stretch

Sit on front of chair. Place right leg straight in front. Inhale. On exhale reach forward towards foot, hold for a breath round. Gently roll yourself up. Repeat on other side.

6) Legs up

Lie on the floor with your legs on a chair. If the neck is uncomfortable place a cushion under the back of the head.

Jennifer is the founder of The Yoga Wellness Company

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