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How (and why) to leave work at school

How (and why) to leave work at school

How many evenings and precious weekends do you spend revisiting classes, ruminating over conversations, or thinking about tomorrow’s lesson plans? We bet too many. Researchers use the term “work recovery” to describe the concept of being present at the end of your working day, rather than lingering in a half-way space between home and work. While running on adrenalin or stress your mental cogs start to turn, and can easily get stuck on images of your day, just like a scratched DVD. It’s not always easy to leave work behind at school—but it is possible. Here’s why and how to increase your work recovery.

The importance of work recovery

Good work recovery decreases stress and burnout while increasing happiness and satisfaction—as well as that of those around. It resets your mind and returns you to a pre-stressor state you were in before jammed photocopiers and upcoming parent-teacher interviews filled your mind. Research backs this up. Not engaging in activities and thoughts related to work while out of the workplace – also called “psychological detachment”—has been linked to lower levels of strain and increased wellbeing.

Give yourself a break – but how?

The recommendation is to consciously detach from your working life during nonwork time. The way to do this? Creating signals that the working day is over, then engaging in non-work activities and pastimes, hobbies, sport, and interests. There are many benefits to investing energy in hobbies and leisure time—and if you harbor guilt about relaxing, let it go. The idea that you must be at the point of burnout to take time off is false.

Try these 7 practical tips to detach from work:

  1. Keep a set block of time to plan tomorrow’s lessons to avoid taking work home. When it’s time to go, leave your workplace tidy and organized. This makes it a welcome sight the next day!

  2. Reclaim your commute. Whether you travel by bus, train, or car, your weekly commute is likely to be hours in total. Give this time back to yourself. Subscribe to podcasts, read a book, listen to music, or meditate. Whatever you need to arrive at work feeling unrushed.

  3. Upon coming home, create a designated half-hour or hour to unwind. Talk, listen to music, have a shower, have a coffee, or gaze out the window. (Notice that Netflix or vegging out on the couch isn’t a suggestion!) If you find it hard to take this time, block it off in your diary.

  4. Changing your clothes when you get home signals to your brain that the work day is over. You might even identify certain clothes you like to wear when relaxing at home.

  5. If you don’t already participate in leisure activities, start. However, “be entrepreneurial about your leisure activities.” Perhaps you’ve tried salsa and simply can’t get into it? Feeling pressured to accompany your friend will only increase your stress during your downtime. Being entrepreneurial means choosing what you would like to do and blocking off time in your calendar.

  6. Don’t forget your friends! Sure, you’ll see them on the weekend, but why not organize a mid-week dinner with friends? Maybe it’s the feeling of playing truant, maybe it’s that fostering good relationships is an essential factor in happiness. Whatever the reason, seeing friends after work is an excellent way to promote work recovery!

  7. Good nutrition and sleep are much-cited tips for good reason. We know they’re expert stress reducers and honestly, trying to do without is a countdown to burnout. Interestingly surveys have found that making your bed increases happiness and wellbeing— so commit to making yours each morning. That way, when you come home from work it will be an inviting place to go to and sleep will come more easily.

Practicing good work recovery techniques will soon create a positive separation between your work day and home life. Whether through hobbies, social interaction, quiet alone time, or pursuing good nutrition and sleep habits, the practice of psychological detachment allows you to completely enjoy your home, family, and friends after hours; and return refreshed the next day.

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