Sarah of Sometimesphotojenik is a regular contributor to Self Care Saturday. Today she provides strategies of how to keep work at work.
One of the hardest but most important parts of self-care is being able to separate your work life from your personal life. It is hard, if not impossible, to try and live both lives at once. If you are involved in a profession that deals with people (health care, social worker, counselor, teacher- just to name a few), this separation from work and real life can be especially difficult.
I’m a pediatric nurse working on a unit that sees everything from toddlers getting routine tonsil surgeries to kids doing six months of rehabilitation following tragic car accidents. Separating work from home life has been a daily challenge over the past 18 months that I have worked on this unit. I have employed some strategies that are helping me keep work and personal life separate, but it is still a work in progress. I hope you can read these strategies, implement a couple of them yourself, and then brainstorm other methods that may work for you.
Disconnect your work email from your phone and/or home computer.
This was absolutely key for me. I was getting emails on my phone on my days off that would cause me to stress out even though I couldn’t do anything about the email until I was back at work anyway. I strongly urge you to disconnect your email and anything else work related from your phone. I know many of you feel like you can’t do this- I felt the same way at first. But really, think about it- what difference is 12 hours going to make in an email response? If we’re being honest, it probably won’t make much of a difference. I get that some of you aren’t able to do this because of the requirements of your job- I can’t turn my phone off when I have to be on call. But unless your job description specifically requires it, I plead with you to disconnect work related correspondence from your electronics. No one will die, and you’ll be able to better care for yourself.
Employ mental techniques when you leave work.
I have about a 5-10 minute walk to my car once I leave the hospital. During that time I think about my day- the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the walk to my car I take all the parts of my day (good and bad), and imagine myself shoving them in a suitcase that I then lock. As I step off hospital grounds, I imagine dropping those suitcases on the ground and leaving all parts of my day at the hospital. Sometimes, I can’t drop everything that quickly so I’ll think about my day on my drive home. When I get home, I imagine all the parts of my day, and I imagine locking those parts of my day in the car when I close my door.
Do these techniques always work? No. Do they help? Certainly. I can be a bit of a verbal processor and my husband is in the medical field so we often share our days with each other over dinner. But employing the above mental techniques really helps me not carry the emotional part of my day home with me.
Assign a space in your home for work.
I have a lot of friends that are teachers and a few that work from home. In these cases, I know it is impossible to keep work totally out of your home. What I would encourage you to do, however, is to assign a spot to do your work. Maybe it’s a desk or maybe it’s the kitchen table. Imagine that space being in a bubble, and when you step away from that bubble you are no longer at work. I know these professions can be harder to separate work from work, but keeping a designated work space can really help.
Do something physical to represent that you are leaving work.
I recently had this idea suggested to me by a counselor and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. She suggested doing something physical to remind yourself that you are no longer at work. She personally has a bracelet that she wears to work that she takes off and places in a little box when she gets home. This signifies that those problems and events of the day are safe, but she no longer has to carry them with her. You can get really creative with this- the counselor explained that she used to take a stone from her house and then leave it at work at the end of the day. The more creative you get, the more you attach to that ritual, and the better it will work. The idea of wearing something (i.e. a bracelet) could really help those of you that do work out of your home (see point above).
Work is a necessary part of life, and many of you may even enjoy your jobs. Even if you enjoy your job (or especially if you don’t), it is vital to separate that part of your life from your personal life. By separating the two, you will be able to more fully participate in each role. Keeping work at work is an incredibly vital part of self-care and I encourage you to look for ways that you can separate the two. Self care is a process that adapts as you try new things that work for you- keep working at it, keep adapting. You are worth it.
What do you do to keep work at work?