how do I stop bringing work stress home with me?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I work a full-time corporate job and am a manager. I have a fair amount of stress related to my job, but I don’t believe it’s above the norm, in relation to other jobs I have. In terms of stakes, I’m not in charge of saving lives or anything else high-pressure.

I work 40 hours a week and don’t generally check my email on off-hours. However, I still find myself thinking about various work situations when I’m not at work (especially related to challenges with my team). Is there a trick to compartmentalizing and leaving the work stress at the office (metaphorically, since I also work from home sometimes)?

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Have you tried building in some kind of routine to make a demarcation between work time and not-work time? This is especially important when you actually are working from home and can’t use the commute for that.

    I have made it a habit to, eg, work out or go for a brisk walk after work. You can also meditate, read the news, anything else that puts your brain into a different state.

    1. Smithy*

      For a start – yes to the idea of elevating a specific practice that marks the end of the work-day to the “home night” or the weekend.

      However, one thing that I’ve always noticed about a lot of the suggestions that I think does work for a lot of people (but not everyone) is that they can be fairly solo in nature. Individual actions to mark leaving one world and entering another. But I do think that some people can find those solo activities (a walk, meditating, cooking dinner) to allow for them to still ruminate on work or even if they do disconnect, by the time they talk to someone about their day – they’ll switch back to work.

      So if the OP feels they identify with any of that, I do think it’s helpful to seek out markers where the transition from work to home is solo, but to make it more collective or extroverted act. If you live alone, that could mean calling a friend or family member to discuss a hobby or social topic. If you live with folks, to request for those immediate conversation topics to be about things other than “how was your day” but rather looking forward to the evening (i.e. what are we cooking for dinner, watching on tv tonight, etc.).

      A lot of the individual/meditative separation tools are fantastic. But for some of us, they can lead to problematic ruminating. And if you are also a more extroverted person, building in social transitions can be really helpful.

      1. Cordelia*

        yes I know what you mean – thinking about work on the walk home (or the walk round the block after a wfh day) is easily done. I put on headphones and walk while listening to non-work-related podcasts or audiobooks, and this takes me out of the work headspace so by the time I get home, I’m home.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I do it sometimes with a focused walk, ie a nature walk where I’m observing things, something like birding or stopping to draw. Basically something that requires 100% of my attention to be present and observing where I am.

          Now that I’m thinking about, it, I don’t do that enough.

        2. Purpleshark*

          I do the same but with the dog added into the scenario! I also write everything on an actual pad of paper on Friday evening that I need to remember for Monday morning so that I am not stressing over the things I need to keep track of over the weekend. This is the single most helpful thing I have done.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Snap! Writing out a list to-do list, numbering the priorities, so that when I get back to work in the morning after a night of insomnia I don’t have to think to much.
            And walking the dog is a great way to snap out of office mode and into something else.
            Someone told me that religious people who pray last thing before hopping into bed can sleep well because they’ve handed their problems over to their god. It’s the equivalent of reporting to the higher-ups, the problem is now out of your hands. I’m not religious, but I see the use of prayer. My to-do list is the nearest I can get to it on my own.

          2. I forgot my user name again*

            I also do that. If a work thought pops into my head during off hours. I write a reminder in my phone calendar for next work day. Now the issue has been moved out of my brain to another location.

        3. Tabihabibi*

          I’m very much still working on this too, but for me, I think letting myself think about bigger picture work dynamics during this transition time actually helps. When I don’t have time to really /contemplate/ all day, it creeps up on me at 5am like, “oh no, what did I say?” Or, “ugh, that guy’s misogyny is so gross and now I’m going to stew on it when I want to be sleeping” Just pushing it down is not a recipe for success in my experience.

      2. Thistle Pie*

        Wow, thank you for putting words to something I’ve always felt but couldn’t articulate. One thing I’ve found that works for my extroverted brain is to do a solo activity while listening to an audiobook or a podcast that has a “hanging out with friends” vibe. Something upbeat and with a captivating but low-stakes story that won’t let me wander off into the anxious parts of my brain.

        1. debbietrash*

          A thing I do sometimes is on my commute home, I’ll window shop, or go in and browse, in stores along my route home from the subway station. There’s a bookstore on my way home, so I can browse books and give my brain that space to disconnect from work before diving into my home routine.

          1. Never Boring*

            One former job had an animal shelter with display windows facing the street on my walk to the train. Puppies!!!

        2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

          The podcast Normal Gossip is great for that kind of listening! Anonymized stories of gossip from normal people’s lives (about their book clubs, apartment buildings, families, etc) — enough stakes to get invested, but low stakes enough to be relaxing.

      3. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        Good idea! It could even be as simple as going on Slack or Teams to say goodbye to coworkers who have the same issue. A tiny little unplugging ritual.

      4. magpie*

        I make a cup of tea and do the NYT crossword with my partner when I get home from Uni, which is a nice balance between “chill thinking time” and social time.

    2. Admin Lackey*

      Yes, my work is close enough to home that I’m able to walk to and from and it’s amazing how much the exercise makes a difference. It might not work immediately, but after you get in the habit, your brain really does start to see it as a trigger to leave work behind

    3. Double A*

      Yes, one thing I miss about working outside of house is that I would build exercise into post-work time. If I went home first I wouldn’t leave again, but if I went straight to my workout then I’d do it.

      Honestly I think exercise is the best transition because you’re doing something different with your body, you’re changing your clothes, and you’re getting endorphins. Exercise can and should look like whatever works for your body, but I find it’s the biggest bang for your buck in terms of mood and stress management and kind of resetting your mind.

      1. Antilles*

        I’ve found changing clothes is helpful even if I’m not working out. Even if objectively I’m going from “jeans” to “jeans” so it should be the same, something about the simple act of taking off my clothes and putting on a new outfit helps provide a nice clean break in my brain.

        1. Minimal Pear*

          Agreed. I work from home so I really want to differentiate things, and I change my clothes right after work most days.

        2. new post, same name*

          I do this. I tell myself I don’t want to get anything on my work clothes while I’m cooking dinner, but really I’m physically and metaphorically shedding the work version of me and putting on the home version.

        3. Inkognyto*

          I change clothes. I have ‘work’ clothes and I have home comfy clothes.

          Now I work from home I change my shirt and I wear something different break the day up. I can wear t-shirts if I want to work.

          I also get done with work, I walk down to the mailbox (for me it’s like 150 meters), and back. I clear my head, lets the dogs out to run in the backyards, maybe walk over and see if the horses are near the barn to get touch. Anything to say bring me home, and not at work.

          It’s hard now that we did the silly time change back. I have no daylight to do an outside workout.

      2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        I agree with double A, I find exercise incredibly helpful for a transition from work. I work in mental health and so am often dealing with pretty heavy shit at work, and I find exercise is very helpful for letting me shake off the day. It doesn’t hurt if you do something like read a trashy novel on the treadmill / bike / etc, throw your mind into something completely different for a while!

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes. I always remember my therapist saying “whatever you do, don’t stop going to the pool. Swimming is the only thing that made your eyes light up in all the time you’ve been coming to me”. Those endorphins are powerful.

    4. Beth*

      I strongly second this–I work from home and my daily afternoon walk with a neighbor is a huge part of why it’s successful for me. It’s good for me health wise, it forces me to log off by a certain time (or have to cancel with my neighbor–which both of us will do if there’s a real need, but it keeps me from doing the “I’ll just poke at this for another 15 minutes….wait, when did it get to be 7pm?” type of overtime), and it creates a really clear separation between my work time and my home time. I’m much more stressed in the evening on days where walk time gets skipped.

    5. Ex-prof*

      This is what I was going to suggest. A buffer zone.

      During your walk, repeat some kind of intention, a mantra. “I’m going to stop thinking about work now. I’m going home. At home I choose not to think about work.” Or whatever works for you, but keep repeating it as needed, whenever your thoughts start to stray.

    6. Sedna*

      In the early days of the pandemic, I was working from my kitchen table. It drove me nuts; I live in a small apartment, and there was literally no division between my work area and the rest of my life. It made it so hard to disconnect from work! I finally trimmed down and reorganized my place enough so I could squeeze a desk into one corner of my dining room. My work laptop and monitor moved there. Once I was done with work, I’d close everything down, push in my chair, and leave my work corner. My mood immediately got so much better – just having a spot where work happens, that was separate from the rest of my life, was huge.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Same. I gave up the one teeny tiny space we had for an overnight guest so I could have a workspace with a door. So nice to close the laptop and rejoin family life in the next room once my workday is done. One of my dogs like to snooze next to my chair while I work, and when he hears the laptop close, he wakes up and ‘commutes’ home with me.

    7. not nice, don't care*

      I live on a small farm about 15 miles from my in-town job, and the commute home through increasingly rural scenery, plus having to go right into farm chores when I get home, really helps stop work rumination for me.
      If I catch myself overthinking during non-work time, I ask myself if it’s anything I can fix/do right now, and if I have started on a plan for whatever it is I’m worrying about. If my answers are no & yes, I tell myself to set those worries on the backburner until I’m back at work, and that my ruminations are getting into bad habit territory, like picking at a wound or sore tooth.
      I’ve learned to be pretty good at this after dealing with multiple simultaneous traumatic events, on top of my native anxiety/health issues. Not perfect, but sometimes helpful.

      1. Cabbagepants*

        hey, another rural commuter! yay!

        watching my chickens go bananas over my lunch leftovers is a lovely part of my day

    8. umami*

      My partner and I do a ‘happy hour’ between work and home. And it doesn’t have to actually be happy hour at a restaurant, it’s just what I call the transition from work to home, whether we meet for a drink or two before heading home, or we get home and sit either outside or in our TV room and relax a bit. We can only talk/vent about work at the very beginning, and I make sure we close with something that was good about the day, and then we can talk about literally anything else for a bit. It helps that we both do it, because otherwise one of us will bring up work stuff, which brings the other’s work stuff to mind, and the cycle has to start all over.

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, this! I feel like we all kind of need the Mr. Rogers experience of taking off the jacket, putting on the comfy sweater, and swapping the work shoes for sneakers. If you take public transit home, a nice way of getting into a different headspace is reading a fun book or maybe knitting or crocheting if that’s your jam. Walking is great too. I work at home, and when I sign off my computer, it’s time to play with my son. Hard to focus on work when you have a three-year-old demanding you sing him songs or spin him around!

    10. AthenasTree*

      Along this idea, I have several routines/guidelines to help separate work into its own compartment and not have the stress bleed into my personal life. I have both morning and evening routines for this, and they are especially critical when I work from home. For context, I’m married but have no children.

      In the morning, to disconnect work from waking up, I:
      – dress in work clothes
      – refrain from opening Slack or email before my work day starts. No work messages with breakfast!
      – spend a few minutes outside if the weather permits

      In the evening, to disconnect, I:
      – change into more casual/lounge clothes.
      – take the dog for a walk
      – talk with my spouse about my workday. Sometimes I vent, sometimes I just tell him what happened or things that went well. In turn, he tells me about his day. This is a cherished time for the both of us where we can reconnect with each other.

      Lastly, after I sign off from work, I don’t check Slack or email at all unless my manager specifically texts me that there’s an emergency that needs my attention.

      OP, some of these may or may not work for you. I’ve found each of these things to be critical to leaving work at work for me. You may need something else to create that mental distance.

      There is another thing I want you to be aware of, which is that if you implement some routines and still cannot leave work at work no matter the mental gymnastics you try, you might be facing some of the earlier signs of burnout or anxiety, and you should take those seriously and seek additional external support. Sometimes it’s impossible to make yourself out-think the stress.

    11. Veronica Mars*

      I find watching Jeopardy or doing another novel trivia challenge or word puzzle to be the best way to transition my brain away from work. I’m one of those who goes on a walk and will replay the day. Now that I work from home, my “commute time” is an episode and my brain jumps to so many other things I know, it seems to really help end some of the other rumination and swirly thoughts that can come with my neurodiversity.

    12. Reluctant Mezzo*

      When my mother came home from work, she read the newspaper. It was Known to all three of us kids that disturbing her with questions like ‘what’s for supper’ would not be met with a good answer. That was her way of chilling. (Of course she felt our stares through the paper, but she was able to manage anyway).

  2. Watry*

    When I realize I’m thinking about work for an unreasonable amount of time outside of work, or dwelling, I literally imagine myself taking a broom and firmly sweeping the thoughts out of my head. It helps put your thought path on a different track.

    1. Cubicles & Chimeras*

      Ha I do something similar to anything I overthink. I picture a trap door type garbage chute in my head and toss it out. (If I’m feeling extra about it, I imagine a dianoga living in the garbage chute.)

    2. Keira*

      I do this, too! In my case, I imagine the image I’m focusing on is actually on a piece of paper that I crumple up and replace with a different “scene” in my mind entirely. Sometimes takes repeat times for this to work, but it does.

    3. Someone else*

      I sometimes found it helpful, when I caught myself dwelling on work stuff outside hours, to write down a quick reminder to myself, so I could ‘think about it tomorrow ‘. Somehow the act of assigning it as a task to specifically come back to tomorrow was enough that my brain could let go of it for the evening. (And tomorrow me was always free to decide she had better things to do, if it turned out not to be as important as it seemed last night!)

      1. Paige*

        This is a really good idea! I find I ruminate on things more when I can’t figure out what to do next, feel like something might spiral out of control, or when I clearly don’t have power over a situation. Just naming that feeling and thinking of the category of the answer (write a list, decide it’s Someone Else’s Problem, or accepting that my current spot in the structure sometimes sucks) goes a loooooooooong way to defusing work anxiety.

      2. Still an admin*

        I should do this when I am not sleeping anyway because I am thinking about work. Put it on the ToDo list for tomorrow. Thanks!

      3. Ally McBeal*

        Yep. The number of times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with a thought about work… I just stumble out to my dining room table and scribble it on a post-it to deal with in the morning. Works like an eraser on my brain.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I use the rubber band trick.
      Put one on my wrist and snap it when I find myself trapped in thoughts that I can do nothing about right now. It can break the cycle and take me out of my head.
      Then the other senses thing:
      1 thing you taste, 2 things you can smell, 3 things you hear, 4 things you see, 5 things you can touch.
      I have better luck with this than with starting a task, even something I enjoy, because things I enjoy doing, I know how to do. I get into the zone and then the mind wanders. So I make myself do something that takes all my senses.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Oh lordy! The rubber band thing reminds me of when HR tried to gaslight all of us during the 2008 meltdown (higher ed budget cuts/layoffs) during a listening session in my department. If we had anxiety about work, being voted off the island (layoffs were handled brutally), hostile management etc. we were supposed to snap ourselves with the rubber bracelets they handed out.
        Somehow this was supposed to negate the vileness being perpetrated by them, making it our problem instead of an institutional problem. So awful.

    5. Audrey Standish*

      I do something like this to, sort of. If I catch myself thinking about a particularly difficult customer, I’ll say, “Audrey, [customer] doesn’t pay your mortgage, so don’t let them live in your house.” And if I have non-customer work thoughts, I’ll say something like, “I don’t have time to think about that now [even if I do]. I’ll think about it later when I have more time [and then I just don’t make time for it.” Repeat as needed. Also works for replaying embarrassing moments in my mind (“I don’t have time to be embarrassed right now; I’ll think about it later”).

    6. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I do something similar. If it’s something in the past I’m just replaying, I remind myself it’s over and in the past and then imagine putting it in a cardboard box, labeling the box and tying the box with ribbon so it can’t pop itself back open. If it’s something I regret, I remind myself I can’t change it, and then imagine what I’ll do/say next time.

      My husband is ND and his trick for persistent thoughts is to imagine putting them in a container and walking them into the basement of a house in his mind, walking back up the stairs and closing the door on them. (So double-sealing them away.)

      For both of us, if it’s something we can’t do anything about right now, literally say that to your brain. “I can’t do anything about that until next Wednesday when I meet with Susan, so no point thinking about it now.”

      1. magpie*

        I have a character in my head that I ascribe persistent or annoying thoughts to, so I can mentally tell that “person” that it’s not time to think about that and can you stop bothering me please? I’m not mean to Annoying Thoughts Guy, I just politely tell him that I’m busy right now and he can come back later, and it seems to work pretty well for me as a way of acknowledging but not ruminating

    7. dreamingofthebeach*

      I have a small tree outside my door that I love to visit anyway (happy trees!), so I have a ritual of greeting my tree, then going through a “hanging this issue out to dry overnight” as I touch leaves/branches. When I head out in the am, I check on my tree to make sure I really don’t need to pick those things back up off the branches to address during the day. Oddly enough, I never seem to have as much to take off the tree as what I put on it :)

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Elderberry trees planted in dooryards or near dwellings were/are supposed to house a protective spirit that watched over household members when they traveled. When the person returned they greeted the elderberry spirit and thanked them for the care.

    8. Katydid*

      Similarly , I used the shower to wash away work-related stress. I’d relax, focus on the hot water streaming over me, and imagine all my thoughts about work washing down the drain. If I later found myself brooding over an incident (my workplace had toxic elements), I’d briefly picture myself letting those thoughts wash down the shower drain, and I could feel my body relax. Worked for me; don’t know if it will work for anyone else. :)

  3. ZSD*

    1) It might sound cheesy, but taking five minutes each evening to meditate by focusing on your breathing and your physical comfort can be a good way to convince your brain to switch into off-duty mode.
    2) Alternatively, dedicating a certain time for your brain to let itself worry can also be helpful. Specifically, I’m thinking you might take a mile (or 2-mile) walk after work, during which time you can think about whatever your want or need to. If your brain uses the walk time to work out some management problems, that’s fine. You’re still getting out into nature and getting a bit of exercise, and maybe your brain will be willing to set those worries aside once you get back to your house.

    1. wondermint*

      This is such stalwart advice for stress management, but so worth repeating. Sometimes I sit quietly and count to 30 in my head, focusing on nothing buy counting, and it’s shocking how that can really take away some racing thoughts.

      1. The Beagle Has Landed*

        Similar: I do box breathing–breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, exhale over a count of 4, hold the exhale for a count of 4, repeat. Really works.

    2. Corelle*

      I also have had some luck with grabbing a notebook and writing myself a note about whatever I’m stressing on and putting it where it’ll go to work with me (work notebook, laptop bag, coat pocket). Writing it down and setting it aside for later helps my brain let it go.

      This strategy is one I use when I’m upset about work things, not strategizing, but it might help too. I give myself a set amount of time…say 10 minutes, to be upset about the thing. Then I take a deep breath and set it aside and let it go. This might help or might work well along with writing it down.

      1. WeirdChemist*

        Yep, I used to spend all night with my brain constantly bombarding me with reminders about everything I needed to remember for work tomorrow, to the point it would take me HOURS to fall asleep at night because my brain just wouldn’t shut up. I started making a habit of writing to-do lists/reminders for tomorrow at the end of every work day, and my at-home work stress dropped considerably!

        1. Generic Name*

          Similarly, I sometimes find myself waking in the middle of the night and ruminating about work problems. I’ve found that if I write down whatever I’m thinking, I can go back to sleep instead of lying awake thinking about it. I don’t even turn on the light, I just scribble on a pad I keep in my bedside drawer. Sometimes when I look at it the next day, whatever I was so worried about/whatever solution I came up with/action item I thought of was actually not all that, but sometimes it is, so it’s helpful to have it written down either way.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Good idea!
        Especially if you combine the time boundary with the notebook. Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes to brain dump whatever is bubbling up. And then pen down, close the notebook, off to something else.

        For me, sometimes the notebook pages end up filled with work to do lists or diagrams of strategies, and other times it’s literally me just writing down every random thing my brain is shooting out, train of thought, rapid fire. The physical process of writing it calms my brain down because it ‘feels’ like I’ve captured it even if I don’t organize or process it in the moment. And sometimes during that 10 minutes I realize the thing that I thought was a disaster looming or an insurmountable crisis is either pretty straight forward to solve or is a ‘delegate up’ or a ‘Not My Circus, Not my Monkeys’ thing.

    3. Earlk*

      Scheduled panic time was recommended to me by a therapist. Personally I do it when I’m still in a place I can actually so something about it if I identify a real issue- even if that’s just adding a calendar reminder the next day to look in to something.

  4. Happy DA*

    I found that going to the gym and getting in a hard workout was a great way to get me out of work-stress mindset, and I suppose really anything that requires full engagement of your mind might do the trick. I did still sometimes struggle with waking up at 5am thinking about some weird work issue or another, that didn’t really go away until I’d left that job altogether.

    1. ferrina*

      Seconding the suggestion of doing a physical activity that brings your mind back to the present. This could be a tough workout that doesn’t leave brain-space for work stress; a sports game where you need to focus or that gets you emotionally invested; or an exercise with mindfulness component (yoga, tai chi, lots of martial arts, even a nice walk in the park). Pick an option that most appeals to you and how your brain works.

      The physical exercise increases dopamine, so you’ve got the that stress reducer + mentally moving yourself away from work. I found it was useful to buy a membership to my favorite activity rather than trying to do one-time events. The membership helps push me to go on a regular basis and turned it from “thing I should do that I actually don’t” to “thing I’m paying for so I’m going to get my money’s worth” to “thing I do regularly because it’s a habit now”. (I’m ADHD; tricks like this are key to my functioning)

    2. Sedna*

      Seconding this. FWIW, I am a person who hates most forms of exercise. What I finally stumbled upon was using a stationary bike in my apartment and watching goofy TV shows on my tablet (I’m a fan of magical girl anime). Also works great when I’m anxious or unable to focus on work from home- I’ll take a half hour break & watch an episode while biking, and it seems to settle down my brain squirrels. It works and I am still SO mad it that works.

  5. John O*

    My follow-up question would be how much time is spent dwelling on work stress. I tend to compartmentalize (to a fault) and regularly think about work stuff during my personal time, both good and bad, but I’m able to quickly move on. Inherently work will come to mind just like your personal life comes to mind while you’re working.

  6. Jessica*

    Is your brain just spinning its wheels or are you actually having useful work-related ideas? It’s normal for your brain to come up with stuff at random moments (the whole “sleep on it” concept), since human cognition does not punch a clock. Maybe a notebook or something where if you have a useful work-related thought/idea, you scribble it down to save for Work Time, and then you’ve captured the benefit of the moment but can stop thinking about it.

    I have terrible work/life balance but a high level of success in dismissing work from my mind completely when I go to a hobby gathering. Is there something in your life (some hobby or interest, a book or TV program, etc.) that is fun and immersive and good at getting your mind off work? Could you start the non-workday with a bit of that thing?

    1. mouse*

      Seconding the notebook idea. I’ve used this before and it really helps. Try to train yourself into the mindset of “There, I’ve written it down, it’s on the to-do list so I won’t forget; I’ll deal with it tomorrow when I’m at work.” It really helped me put things in a box, as it were. Once it was in the book, I didn’t let myself think about it for the rest of the night. If the though recurred I had the mantra “It’s in the book. Move on”

      1. Joni*

        I don’t use a notebook, I just text or email my work accounts from my private. I don’t have to log in at the work accouts and see everything and I can let it go. It will be there the next time I work.

      2. ferrina*

        I carry a small notepad in my purse. I jot down ideas there as they occur, or if I’m bored somewhere I can pull it out and sketch out ideas for a work project.

      3. Casual Librarian*

        yes to the notebook! I email myself any random work ideas during my personal time. I find that my concerns/worryings are typically due to the fact that I feel like I’ll forget about them–the stress is to retain them, not to solve a problem.

      4. longtimelurker*

        I also agree with the notebook idea.

        In addition, when I was dwelling, I would mark time off in my work calendar to address the issue. E.g. “I’m worried about handling how my team is performing llama grooming/having conflict over the llama grooming expansion/etc” I’ll mark off a 15 minute blook for “llama grooming team strategy” for the next day. Knowing that I have a specific work time to address the thing I’m thinking of really helped me keep it separate from home time. Over time I needed to do that less because I was training myself that I would be able to deal with it the next work day.

    2. mcm*

      seconding the hobby idea! I think it matters a lot what else in your life you have to think seriously about. A writer I really enjoy, Anne Helen Peterson, posted a newsletter last week about ambition outside of work and how it changed her relationship to work — being ambitious about gardening, or improving at a sport, or even in the amount you read or something like that gives you somewhere else to direct that energy in non-work hours. It’s hard to turn your brain off, but much easier to turn it on to something else that’s exciting to think about. Maybe consider what else in your life you could be ambitious about, and direct your thoughts there!

      1. CrazySexyCool*

        As work stress ramped back up in middle-late covid, my hobbies have sadly fallen by the wayside, including a simple cross stitch that I’ve been working on for like 3 years.

        1. Your Mom Though*

          My mom is right now finishing a cross-stitch she started literally 35 years ago – there’s still time!

    3. Save Bandit*

      This can be so hard with a stressful job! You’re already doing the most important thing, which is not checking email during off hours.

      When I can’t stop thinking about work, I take myself through the following self-analysis:
      1) Is this a task I need to do that I might forget about otherwise? Is this an idea I have that I’d like to explore more/work on? If yes to either, I send my work email address an email from my personal account with quick notes on my thoughts.

      2) If no to step 1, am I just stressing/perseverating about work in general or a specific issue? If so, I remind myself that there’s nothing I can do in that exact moment to fix it or make it better. (Note that I’m using “can” loosely. You probably CAN log in after-hours and do more work. That’s not what I’m saying at all!). Give yourself permission to save work problems for work. Tell yourself that you’re doing everything in your power during work hours, and that’s the best you can do.

      This process didn’t work for me right away, but with time, I’ve been able to train my brain to be able to pivot from this kind of thing. If all else fails and I can’t stop thinking about it, I literally picture a box, and visualize myself putting the topic in a box, then putting the box on my work desk and walking away. Then I do something to distract myself.

    4. Quinalla*

      Yup, this is what I do when I’m actually thinking about something useful/important. I have a onenote I use (notebook or anything else you can write/type/record with works) to jot down ideas or things I need to remember and then I make sure to review that Monday morning.

      I think the other advice of exercise, meditation, hobbies, etc. is great if you are just anxious/ruminating, but if they are actual ideas/things to remember – capturing them somewhere you will look at when work start again almost always will get your brain to chill out and stop returning to it.

      And there are times when there is something super thorny, etc. and I just will take 30 minutes to really dive in on the problem, writing a bunch, and then I can let that go usually too.

  7. Bird Lady*

    So I think you are taking the first and most important step by not engaging with work via email or phone when you are off. It’s hard to compartmentalize; if you find a way that succeeds all of the time, then please share it with us!

    Here are some things that I try to do:

    1. Use my commute as a way to decompress from work stress
    2. Schedule fitness classes that require deep focus (I do yoga, but one of my friends swears by HIIT) so it’s hard to think about work during that hour or so of time
    3. Make cooking dinner each night a fun event
    4. Don’t get upset when I find myself thinking about work! Just acknowledge the thought and move on
    5. If I do work at home, I work in a separate environment than when I am not working
    6. Schedule time with friends to share an activity

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      I also use my commute to help me transition. I do this in a few ways: 1) I really dwell on whatever it is that’s bothering me. I have long conversations and/or arguments in my head or I draft emails to help my whatever points I need to make clear. Once home, I can send the email or just decide I’m done dwelling for that day. 2) I call someone (hands free) and vent about my day. Some days, I just need to complain and get it out of my system. 3) Chill out with an audiobook or music. Start my evening a tad bit earlier with something that entertains me to make that boundary from work to home.

      It also helps I have dogs. I come home and they immediately need all the attention I can give. So a lot of times I have no choice but to change gears when at home. When I start overthinking about work (I do need to work a bit in my outside hours), I switch my focus to the dogs and whatever it is they need and it’s usually something.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Can you make it into a meditative and sensual experience?

        Can you use the chopping and stirring as a moving meditation?
        Can you enjoy the scent of parsley as you chop it, the bloom of onions and garlic as they hit the hot oil?
        Can you enjoy testing the flavors as they mature while they cook and look forward to having a full plate in front of you – perhaps with family or friends?

        Failing that – audiobooks and podcasts are great. You can also use the time to catch up on the news – BBC Radio 4 or BBC World Service news is great for that, although the news might not be good for cooking with love and digestion!

      2. peter b*

        I live alone and cooking for one can be a challenge, but lately I’ve been trying to make pretty dishes – arranging all my vegetables in a rice bowl to sit nicely. It’s stuff like canned carrots and mircowave rice, and the most manual thing is a bit of (pre-chopped, stored in water) green onions to give it that extra restaurant-y splash, but something about doing it with cheap/easy/instant ingredients feels like a big victory sometimes. Helps me slow down a bit, too.

      3. Em from CT*

        I love to listen to music while I cook! 1940s big band is cheery and upbeat and always makes me cheerful, though YMMV. I’m also a fan of lighting a candle on the counter for the ambiance, especially now that it’s so dark so early (I’m in the northern hemisphere).

      4. Nannerdoodle*

        I’m not the person who wrote that, but I have some ideas.

        1. You can put on a TV show, podcast, movie, style of music, etc that you really enjoy or on watch while cooking.
        2. Make food that you love to eat. If you’re just making the same thing over and over, it drags you down. If you want to do breakfast for dinner one day, do it.
        3. Do grocery shopping, prep, and potentially some of the cooking in advance so you’re not stuck cooking for crazy amounts of time after work. And/or pick quick meals to make for the same purpose. For example, this past weekend, I made a homemade tomato and veggie marinara sauce that I love. It takes a long time, but it’s delicious. I also made some meatballs. During the week, all I have to do is cook the pasta and make a salad and then heat up the sauce and meatballs. Dinner is ready in 15-20 minutes max each night and I get to eat what I love. Another example is making slow cooker shredded chicken on the weekend and then I can use smaller amounts of it for tacos, enchiladas, burritos, etc throughout the week. Or you can chop up veggies, proteins, and whatever else and put them in bags, freeze them, and then just dump them into a pan to cook later in the week for a stir fry.

      5. Hlao-roo*

        In broad strokes:
        1) Add things you like
        2) Take away things you don’t like

        To expand a bit:
        For (1): “things you like” can be anything from putting on your favorite music while you cook to changing “cooking dinner” from a solo event to a collaborative event with everyone in your household (or vice versa) to cooking food you are excited to eat (whether that’s a new recipe you’re trying for the first time or an old favorite you know you’ll love).

        For (2): Are there parts of cooking dinner you don’t like? Personally, I don’t like the “choose the dinner menu” part, so I decide what my meals will be at the beginning of the week and stock the ingredients I’ll need in my kitchen. Then, “cooking dinner” is prepping and cooking the ingredients, which I enjoy. If prepping the ingredients is the step you don’t like, buying pre-chopped nuts, canned/frozen vegetables, etc. can help. If there are certain cooking methods you know you’ll never love (for example, maybe you think the process of frying food is too messy even when the results taste delicious), then don’t plan to cook recipes/meals that involve those methods.

        One more broad tip: try to talk about cooking in a positive way (both to other people and in your internal monologue). It’s hard for cooking dinner to be a fun event if you talk/think about it in terms of “ugh, I have to cook tonight >:(”
        Tell other people (and yourself) that you’re looking forward to [trying a new recipe/making your favorite meal] tonight.

      6. Bird Lady*

        I can’t speak for everyone… but at Casa de Birdie, I usually play upbeat music while cooking. I might even dance a bit while chopping or stirring. It’s just us two and the birds, so I tend to buy fresh ingredients and cook from those. They house usually smells really nice. My husband will grill, even in the winter. So we’ll bundle up in the cold with wine or bourbon while he finishes off a steak. It’s just a time to be together and be goofy.

      7. saskia*

        Concentrate on what you’re doing and value the meditative time it gives you. Smell the ingredients deeply. Anticipate the finished product and make sure the place you eat it (table, couch, etc.) is clear, clean and ready to facilitate a nice dinner-eating experience (can be done while water heats up, food is cooking, etc.)

        If you hate cooking, maybe nothing will make it ‘fun’. But perhaps you can find tools that will hasten the process — for example, using one of those crinkle cutting tools that you hold in one fist and slam down on the veggies or a mini manual food processor/chopper. Those make chopping into a mindless, somewhat fun and fast activity, and the tools are very cheap.

      8. lilyp*

        For me:
        – pick out a couple recipes you’re excited to cook the weekend before, buy the ingredients, and plan loosely what to cook each night – makes it something you’re excited about making and eating and takes away decision fatigue or ingredient scrambling day-of
        – make food you personally will find delicious and satisfying – bonus points if you can make stuff just the way you like in ways you can’t get anywhere else
        – put on a TV show you like in the background
        – wear comfy and practical clothes & shoes – getting house slippers with arch support changed my life, also make sure you’re warm/cool enough and don’t have anything annoying like sleeves that’ll drag in stuff
        – have a little snack/drink for while you cook – cooking while hungry is a recipe for crankiness. Snacking on ingredients while you prep counts!
        – take a couple minutes before you start to lightly tidy your space – take stuff off counters, put away clean dishes, maybe wash anything you’ll need to use, and get out your ingredients and recipe – helps things feel calm and not hectic/cluttered
        – if you’re not a confident cook, take a few minutes before you start to read through the recipe and visualize yourself doing each step, with your ingredients/tools in your kitchen. This will help catch any surprises (like a dish you need to wash or an ingredient you forgot) early, and also makes actually doing the steps feel less stressful because you had a little mental dress rehearsal
        – if you’re making multiple things, take a minute to think through what order you’ll do things in and how you’ll interleave steps
        – if you really really don’t feel like cooking that night, give yourself a mulligan and order takeout or eat something frozen – forcing yourself through it when you hate every minute will only deepen unpleasant associations and make it more frustrating in the future

    2. CanadaGoose*

      All great points, as is the option of mediation practice mentioned by some others. (For anyone not familiar, I explain meditation as the practice of noticing that you’re having a thought, reacting neutrally to that fact, and dismissing the thought. You might focus on your breathing in between, but most of your time is practicing this skill, which is good training for the rest of your day.)
      Anyway, one additional strategy I haven’t seen mentioned yet is a finishing-work ritual or routine. Not the unwind/transition part yet, but while you’re still in work mode, for the last 5 minutes of the work day, I find it quite helpful to check that I’ve written down everything I might need to remember to do, think about, solve, etc sometime later in the week or month. Then, if I notice work thoughts popping up during the evening, I can easily dismiss them if I want because I’m reassured that I won’t forget – it’s already on my list at work. I can handle it then.

    3. Miette*

      Along the vein of using the commute and leaning into hobbies: I used to have a 1-hour train ride to work, and in addition to podcasts and music, I’d read or write fanfic on my phone while on the train. A great way to imagine anything else but work!

  8. els*

    Something that might help is coming up with a small ritual to mark the end of your workday; something that says “I am finished with work now and don’t need to think about it again until tomorrow.” Something as simple as playing the same song as soon as you clock out, whether in your car or in a room other than the one where you work. Or a few deep breaths.

    Another thing I find I sometimes have to do if I want to stop thinking/talking about work is to make the conscious choice to do so. Not just in my head– I say aloud, “Nope, I’m done thinking/talking about this,” and then change the subject deliberately. And then stay off it. If you find yourself drifting back to the topic of work, you can say “One last thing about work, and then I’m done,” or you can cut it off at the pass.

    It’ll take practice. It’s okay. You’ve got this.

    1. I Have RBF*

      This is what I do. I work remotely. When I’m done for the day, I:
      * Say good night on chat
      * Lock my work computer
      * Go into a different room
      * Play a distracting game on my phone (My current favorite for this is Number Crunch – it requires thought, but not work thought, just number matching.)

      This puts all of the work stuff into background processing, and clears away the ongoing stressors.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    Rituals. Something that you do repeatedly, that signals to your brain the divisions work — decompressing from work –now I am not worrying about work.

    Mr. Rogers would come home and take off his shoes and jacket, and put on his slippers and cardigan. The work problems are the shoes and jacket, and the “now I am setting work aside” is taking them off. With the cardigan and slippers as cues that you are in not-work time now.

    For some people, that’s 10 minutes of venting to their spouse about that day’s annoyances, kind of like unwrapping your outerwear and handing it to your spouse who hangs all the pieces up, thus helping you transition. (This is very different from nonstop griping.) For other people it might be 15 minutes of doing puzzles or watching baby goat videos at the end of the workday.

    e.g. This might mean that when you work from home you have some sort of beverage in your big red mug, and you don’t use that mug when you’re not working. Like my husband has discovered that herbal tea will give him a finish-things-up push, because his brain says “I am drinking hot liquid from a tea mug, obviously I shall now feel energized” and it takes his body a bit to realize that there was no caffeine.

    1. Ama*

      I actually have a couple of designated comfy outfits that are “no work only.” I work from home full time and while I do wear sweats or comfy pants a lot when I’m working, if I put on one of my “no work” outfits I’m done with work for the day (I won’t even wear them to work on my sidegig).

      I also set all of my plant watering alarms to go off right as my work day regularly finishes (I have enough plants of various types that something always needs watering) so I immediately get up from my computer and go tend to my plants, it serves as the “commute” part of my day and helps me detach from work stress by taking care of something else.

  10. ThatGirl*

    Make a clean break with your workday – change your clothes, or shut the door to your office, or have some kind of “end of the day” ritual to shift your mindset.

    For me it also helps to have non-work things to focus on in the evening – you don’t mention kids or a spouse or a pet, but those can all be good things to take attention. Or maybe take up a hobby, a craft, an exercise routine, some zen cooking, a TV show to binge.

    If you do find that work thoughts are intrusive or annoying, meditation or therapy can be helpful (though I don’t get the impression this is so serious that it would necessarily warrant therapy).

    1. River*

      I find I HAVE to have a separate workspace. I worked in my bedroom and I would have TERRIBLE sleep at night. By moving to a different space, I completely changed my relationship with sleep. I have to have the ability to leave the work environment… even if you have to move your desk into a closet. I need that compartmentalization.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep, I do this. My working-from-home desk is a bureau, so I put my laptop away in its drawer and close up the front of the bureau and all signs of ‘work’ are gone for the evening. I do also like to have an end-of-day gin and tonic to mark the start of the evening, and especially now it’s dark when I finish work I like to light a nice candle and make things feel more cosy and evening-like rather than work-like.

      If I’m not going out in the evening, I like to listen to a podcast or listen to some music while making something nice for dinner (I enjoy cooking and find it really helps to get my mind into evening mode). I’ve had to stop because my yoga teacher has given up teaching, but in lockdown I got into doing an online yoga class a couple of evenings a week, and that was brilliant. Basically, anything you can think of that will help your mind move away from work and on to nice evening activities.

      But if you do find yourself thinking about work, it’s also fine – just try to make a mental note, like ‘OK, but that’s a work problem and it’s not for now. We’ll deal with that tomorrow’. Sometimes if it’s a case of suddenly remembering something I need to do, or suddenly thinking of a solution to something, I’ll jot down a quick note and stick it on my laptop so I know it’s there for me in the morning.

  11. Erin*

    I like to take my annual salary, and divide it to get to a number that = 40 hours per week. At that point, I know my hourly rate. If/when I start to work outside of those 40 hours, my hourly rate goes down, and I don’t like that.

    YMMV, but I don’t like working more hours, especially for less money per hour. Reminding myself that I’m paid X per hour keeps me from overworking.

    1. Shrimp Emplaced*

      I love this solution, as well as all of the ones above. This one in particular gets me, given how much time I spend hunting for bargains. The biggest bargain of all is not decreasing my hourly rate! Thanks, Erin!

  12. Mayor of Llamatown*

    1. Routine. Create a routine that can help you physically remove the stress. You can do like Mr. Rogers and once you are home, take off your shoes and your jacket and say to yourself “I’m leaving work behind, I’m at home now.”

    2. Mindfulness and meditation. Work on strengthening your ability to control your thoughts. This was HUGE for me.

  13. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

    Personally, I’d recommend two major things:

    1) Look at your commute and see if there are ways you can change it up to help highlight the divide. Often if there are ways to make your commute more relaxing it can help to soothe you out of the work mind-set. Personally, I love walking a leg of my commute although I realise not everyone has that luxury. The more stressful my day was, the longer I will often walk.

    2) I would also make sure to cut yourself slack for not being able to fully compartmentalise. It’s natural that you would think about challenging situations while at home and the flipside is that it’s natural to think about challenging personal situations at work. So if you catch yourself doing it, trying to acknowledge it as understandable rather than getting frustrated with yourself (again, easier said that done) — I think will have the paradoxical impact of making it easier to move on from the thoughts.

    Aligning with that, if you’re going through a challenging period at work, then carving out personal time to talk about your feelings around the issue (rather than brainstorm work solutions) can be helpful. Often friends/family can help support us by lending us ~30 minutes to process/vent and then bring you to an end so you can move on to other topics.

    We often don’t have space to acknowledge our feelings ABOUT work AT work and they have to go somewhere! So deliberately carving out specific personal time to do that might, again, paradoxically make the balance easier, as part of why they keep coming up might be that you’re trying overly hard to push them down.

    1. lilyp*

      I agree with this – often when I get stuck in unpleasant work-related rumination it’s because I’m having some Feelings, and it helps me to take 30m (often on the clock!) to write down (somewhere private and offline):
      – WHAT feeling(s) am I having? (frustration, jealousy, fear/worry, guilt/regret, other?)
      – WHY am I having them?
      — are they correct/justified/reasonable, or something I’m blowing out of proportion or borrowing trouble on?
      – what can I DO about the situation?
      — is there some action I can take or thing I can change about my approach?
      — do I need to talk to someone or escalate an issue?
      — is there something I can learn from the situation and resolve to do differently in the future?
      — is this above my pay grade or not my circus, and I just need to accept that I don’t have control over it?

      Often once I’ve done that I’m more able to let the feelings go, and if the thoughts come up again I can just quickly remind myself of whatever I decided to do about it instead of rehashing the whole situation in my head again.

    2. coffee*

      “space to acknowledge our feelings about work”
      Oh, that is such a good reminder that of course I have feelings about what is happening at work.

  14. L-squared*

    You can’t stop your brain, but you can actively not talk about it.

    Going with that, you can tell the other people in your life that “If I start talking about work, please stop me from doing so. I give you my full permission to cut in and stop it”

    That way at least its not dominating conversations with others

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! And actively talk about other things. If you don’t know what else to talk about- well, first, I’ve been there, and you have my sincere condolences. Then go out and try out hobbies. You can then report back on what hobbies you’ve been trying. See if you can get friends to take a class with you or sign up for pickleball at the rec center.

      Sometimes keeping yourself actively distracted is a good stop-gap until you can re-train your brain not to constantly default to work.

  15. EmmaPeel*

    Change your clothes mindfully. Seriously. Even if you hop into sweats after work, do it mindfully: I’m taking off the uniform for work, and putting on the uniform for home. Same thing on the weekend. When you get dressed on your days off, mindfully think, “I’m putting on my day-off uniform.”

    It sounds cheesy, but the conscious acknowledgment can make a big difference.

    1. Minimal Pear*

      I was a theatre kid, so for me it’s a costume framing. I’m getting out of costume as Competent And Responsible Office Worker and going back to not playing a character. (Although my persona at work is pretty close to my real personality.)

  16. Sneaky Squirrel*

    It’s not a perfect system and I still feel stressed some days, but it helps me to make myself a small task list/data dump list at the end of the day of all the things that feel urgent to me and email it to my work email so it’s at the top of my inbox the next morning. This gives me some brain space because it allows me to stop holding on to those “don’t forgets” for a whole night.

    And if I get a thought after hours of something I remembered later, I use my personal email and just email that thought to my work account. Sometimes I could have 3 or 4 emails the next a.m. from myself (usually with silly subject titles like “stop stressing!’).

    1. bananaphobia*

      Seconding the data dump/to do list at the end of the day. I take about 5 minutes to write myself a note about priorities for the next day, and leave it on my desk.

      This helps clear my brain a bit, but also with physically leaving work at work.

    2. EarlGrey*

      Totally agreed with the data dump advice – I personally prefer to do it with pen and paper, but regardless of the medium it helps take your brain off “remember X!” duty.

      Sometimes, though, if a work thing is following my brain home, it helps to actually intentionally think about the work thing for a few minutes – maybe while doing something otherwise mindless like working out or tidying up – so that I *finish* the thought rather than let it spin its wheels. I like your idea of emailing it to myself to basically close it out!

    3. Anon For This #554*

      Yes, this! You can even just send notes. I find it super helpful to take 30 seconds to send an email to myself and then move on rather than dwelling.

      I’d suggest also thinking about and establishing boundaries if you don’t already have them. This might be beyond work/life balance, so it can be uncomfortable occasionally.

    4. Emily Dickinson*

      I do this! I recently switched roles and it is now a necessity. I have ADHD so some of these steps may seem like overkill, but I depend on them. Here’s my system:
      – OneNote notebook section called Daily Planner
      – Daily Planner template with sections for start of day checklist, end of day prompts, top 3 priorities for the day, to-do list, meeting list, list of recurring tasks and their frequency
      – 30 minute blocked off time for my end of day. I use this to follow my end of day prompts:
      – Stop doing other stuff
      – Create next days page
      – What didn’t get finished today? Add it to tomorrows list
      – What else do I need to do tomorrow? Add it as well
      – What are the priority items? Mark them as such
      – Check tomorrow’s calendar – add any meetings to the daily page (yes, I need to document them in multiple places. I also set phone alarms in the morning just to make sure I get to them)
      – Taking into account meetings, priorities, and other to-dos, block off calendar time for tasks
      – Am I late getting deliverables to anyone? Send them a message to let them know I’m aware, it’s on my list and my calendar, and provide an updated delivery estimate
      – Check email – delete anything I don’t need to keep. If I can answer in less than 1 minute, respond.
      – If I still have time, I do a 5-10 meditation.
      – If I get all that done before my official end time, I restart my computer properly
      – If it’s still before my official end time, I finish early because I just did an awesome job and give myself permission to stop thinking about work. This has happened exactly once.

      This is pretty effective for me. If I’ve been working on an interesting to me problem I may still have a hard time letting go, but it helps a lot.

  17. Jellyfish Catcher*

    My dad, who was a busy executive, was emotionally present at home and weekends.
    I once asked him how he managed to do that.
    Before leaving the office, he mentally packed his work concerns in a suitcase, and closed it. At a certain corner on his drive home, he visualized tossing the suitcase into a bunch of shrubs.
    In the morning, driving to work, he mentally picked up the suitcase.

    1. pally*

      I do something like this. The concerns I write down on a sheet of paper. Then leave it on my desk-at work. This paper is not to come home with me.
      This allows me to feel unburdened and not like I’m going to forget something.
      When I return the next day, I start with my paper.

  18. Shirley B*

    I’m in what sounds like a similar role and mental position. I guess my question to you is — is this productive problem-solving? E.g., are you finding that thinking about work problems in a non-work context is perhaps helping you solve these issues more effectively? If so, maybe you can choose to think of it as time-shifted work and get your time back during your standard work day by intentionally setting aside time for personal things/relaxation (if you have that type of autonomy). Or maybe this is a sign that you don’t have enough “thinking” time already structured into your work day. It’s a critical management task, so do what you can to add that if possible!

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I’m a manager in a similar position to the OP, and this is exactly how I handle it. I make sure to build in time for rest during my workdays because I know that my brain will come up with work solutions off hours, so it’s a way for me to balance out that time, which keeps me from stressing.

  19. Shrimp Emplaced*

    Along with the suggestions of changing clothes for working at home, my therapist long ago suggested saving certain beverages — like a specific tea — for work only, as well as specific scents for work only. So I’d drink mint tea and have a vanilla candle running for work. And then for off-work hours, I’d switch to other beverages and other candle scents.

  20. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    I think there’s a certain kind of low-level awareness of work stuff outside work that can be healthy – like if you’ve ever suddenly come up with a brilliant work solution in the shower. It’s normal for our brains to keep kind of churning away. I second the suggestion to give meditation a try and see if it works for you; it’s not really about clearing your brain of thoughts, more like learning to recognize when you’re dwelling on work so you can decide whether you’re okay with it or not (e.g. if you’re trying to sleep).

    Not checking your email on your phone on off hours is great and I would also say to make sure you don’t have work email notifications on your phone (or at least not off hours). A silly thing I also do is to have my office key (badge) on a lanyard that’s separate from my home/car keys. It means one more thing to remember when I do go to the office but it helps me keep a line between work mode and home mode.

  21. Amber Rose*

    +1 to mindfully doing things like, “when I go out this door I am leaving work” and “when I change clothes, I am in Home Time and focusing on Personal Things.”

    Honestly hobbies help too. Give yourself a completely different thing to focus on and get excited about. I read a lot, and I’ve been learning an instrument, sometimes I doodle.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      +1 to hobbies. When your while identity isn’t wrapped up in your career or job title, you tend to carry around less work stress.

    2. J*

      When my company was going through a project last month, I broke down and picked up a long-forgotten cross-stitch project. Suddenly every time I’d be stressed about work in the evenings, I’d force myself to listen to an audiobook and stitch until I was calm or forgot about time. I read 22 books that month and finished the cross-stitch. It really helped me think about what a waste that time would have been if I’d just been ruminating about someone’s emails or the next day’s tasks.

  22. Sybil Writes*

    My guess is that thoughts about “challenges with your team” fall into one of two broad buckets: 1. Wondering what you can do and 2. a possible good idea to follow up on.
    For Bucket 1 items, try to train yourself to leave that for another time. “Ok, subconscious, if you want to work on this for awhile, that’s fine, but I’m not working on it directly now,” can be a useful strategy. (We are all more susceptible to suggestion than we might think.) Also having an option to the intrusive thought, such as music or reading or conversation can help shut it down.
    For Bucket 2 items, having a notebook or making a voice memo on your phone can be helpful. Take the 5 seconds or so it takes to note your idea and set aside the first few minutes of each work day to review any ideas from the day before. Once you’ve recorded the idea, train yourself to put it aside until next work day.
    Another idea is to take the “Mr. Rogers approach” and create a bit of a ritual to demark your transition from work to home/off work. Mr. Rogers changed into his cardigan and slippers at the front door. You might do something similar or completely different, like listening to specific music on the ride home from work or whatever helps you make the mental move from work mode to home mode.

    It takes time to build a habit (somewhere between 21 and 90 days I think), so be patient and good luck!

  23. Statler von Waldorf*

    I’m in Canada, so it’s legal for me to use large amounts of cannabis to solve this issue.

    Your mileage may vary on whether this is an effective solution for you.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Phoenix here. I have a bar cart dedicated to this lifestyle. I find tedious tasks to be very fun as a result.

  24. Bossy Girl*

    Over dinner, my husband and I talk about our respective work — everything from “you can’t make this stuff up” to “Ugh, they’re doing it again,” to happy stuff. So often, my husband provides me insights/plans of action/feedback that I hadn’t considered and most times, when dinner is finished, I feel like I have at least a potential way to deal with situations and don’t think about work again that evening. He’s a wonderful sounding board.

  25. katniss everdeen*

    I completely agree with this. Getting it written down (I use a task manager app) allows me to dismiss that thought, because I know it will be there for me to pick back up in the morning. 95% of the time I start feeling overwhelmed – I need to stop and write down everything that is floating in my head (no matter how trivial or massive or undefined), and then my brain can start wading through it so much more efficiently.

  26. LadyAmalthea*

    My husband had a lot of difficulty with that, and the one thing that consistently helps is YouTube karaoke.

  27. ecnaseener*

    I don’t know if it counts as a trick, but whenever I catch myself thinking about work I just say to myself “stop! work owns your brain for 40 hours a week and this isn’t one of them!” and find something better to think about – usually putting on a podcast.

    1. ferrina*

      I’ve also reminded myself that actively thinking about work all the time denies me the chance to subconciously process it. Taking time to space out/relax our mind is really healthy- it enhances creativity and productivity. When I’m actively thinking about work all the time, I’m actually hurting my work productivity. When I invest time into resting, it’s an investment in my work productivity.

      There’s a business case for not thinking about work when you’re not at work.

    2. Ruth A*

      In the same vein, I will tell myself, “This is not my problem for another X hours,” where X is how many hours until my next workday starts.

  28. KToo*

    Like others have said, a demarcation between work and home is great for this. When I used to be in the office it was time to sit in the car for a few minutes before leaving and the drive home. Now that I’m fully remote there’s no physical removal, but it’s been ingrained enough that it’s fairly simple, but there are still things I do – right after shutting down I feed my cats, empty the dishwasher, clean up the kitchen to get ready for cooking. Not a lot, but it’s enough of a ‘that was work, this is home’ reminder. My partner also work the same job I do for the same company, and we have an almost unwritten rule that we’re allowed to complain or talk about work for maybe 5 minutes at the end of the day, but not at all at any other time – no evenings or weekends.

  29. Rapid Roy*

    I think your level of care and concern for your team, and your level of commitment to your company may drive some of this off-hours ‘work’ (where you keep thinking about work). If you didn’t care about your work/your people you wouldn’t be asking this question.

    I have found a few things that help keep work at work and out of my brain:
    – Use your team. I have trusted peers and leaders at work that I can talk to about challenging situations. It helps to get their input.
    -Debrief at the end of the day/week with a trusted person. I often ask my wife for “a few minutes to talk something through”. Her perspective is invaluable. (important: limit your time – don’t talk all evening about what happened at work today)
    – Enjoy a hobby. My job is managing an IT team. My hobby is vintage motorcycles. Most days, the bike is better than therapy for me.
    – block out some decompression time. My commute home is precious. Some days I listen to a podcast, some days I drive in silence, and some days I blast AC/DC.
    – take your vacation time regularly. And take enough days in a row where you can truly disconnect from work.
    – and speaking of therapy, talking to a professional has really helped me as well.

    hope this helps. good luck!

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I think your level of care and concern for your team, and your level of commitment to your company may drive some of this off-hours ‘work’ (where you keep thinking about work).

      I’m going to admit to something that’s probably incredibly controversial to say out loud, especially for a newer manager, but it has helped me considerably over the years as an individual contributor (and now people manager) to just stop caring so much.

      I advocate hard for myself and my team, give them all the necessary support that they need, my team is widely acknowledged throughout the company as being incredibly high performing, my directs have praised my leadership style to my direct manager (so I know they’re happy with our team, at least outwardly) – and yet, once 6pm rolls around, I close my laptop and don’t think about them or my work that much. Instead, I sit down with a good book or do yoga and/or Pilates, then go about my evening.

      I do what I can during my regular working hours, and I let go of all the things I can’t control. I don’t overextend myself, and I coach my directs on how to problem solve for themselves and give them agency to make critical decisions for the programs they handle. Because of this, I’m relatively stress free when I am off the clock (when it comes to work stuff – life and health stuff is another story).

      OP, if you’re trying to do All The Things all the time at work, that may be causing you undue stress that you can’t shake once you’re off. Think about where you can realistically let some things drop or become someone else’s problem to solve and see if that helps alleviate some of your stress.

      1. pally*

        Delegate certain things to reports can also be helpful. One aspect of being a manager is training folks to become the next manager. So get ’em started with a few stretch assignments.

  30. Abogado Avocado.*

    It took me YEARS to learn this, but two actions have helped me: (1) setting a timer for 5 minutes and thinking really hard about all whatever is eating at me and telling myself that, when the timer goes off, I’m done thinking about it. This sounds weird, but it really works for ending the rumination about stressful events, and (2) Meditating for 15 minutes when I get home. I just tell my husband that I need some time to decompress, then I do my meditation and it really helps me re-set. This has had the added benefit of my husband telling me he needs to decompress after work. So, it’s good to have that understanding at home.

  31. always on*

    I relate to this, but for me I have to recognize that part of me does this because I like to do it. So for me a key thing is to realize when am I thinking about work outside of work in a way that is positive, and when is it becoming a negative. When I see it becoming a negative I tell myself “that’s a problem for tomorrow’s me” and I consciously direct my thoughts elsewhere. But a lot of times I honestly just like letting my brain tick away on work issues and bouncing ideas off of my spouse.

  32. pally*

    As others have noted, do non-work things (hobbies, family, friends) after the workday ends.
    With a little practice, you can steer your thoughts away from work stuff while you are doing the non-work activities.
    Remember, you are of much better use at work if your mind has been given regular breaks from work. So you might consider the non-work activities as important to pursue as the work activities.

    1. Clare*

      This. My top recommended ‘obscure but surprisingly cheap and easy to get started with’ hobbies are:
      – Bonsai
      – Needle tatting
      – Geocaching
      – Shorthand
      – Programming in assembly (if you can program already) (yes it IS surprisingly easy, go on, try it you coward)

      If you already have a hobby but you can’t spend as much time on it as you’d like, please consider going online and finding an absolute beginner level forum or thread and answering some questions. There’s always someone who knows less than you do who would benefit from a little help from a generous and patient stranger. You don’t have to be a regular or commit lots of time – there will always be someone who needs to learn how to tie their shoelaces, and sometimes it’s just nice to get a real answer instead of ‘here’s the link to the wiki’, when somebody has the time to help you. It’s the ultimate in drop-in drop-out zero commitment volunteering.

  33. A BA PO*

    My husband is an anxious worrier and will dwell on things after work. He’s also pretty money-conscious/driven and makes sure he cuts his time off for the day right at the 8 hour mark (even though he’s salaried). So if he’s worried at night I tell him that he’s “not getting paid to worry about it right now!” and sometimes it helps!

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, I’m definitely not paid enough to work overtime, so I try not to let myself think about work things unless I’m at work!

  34. Dinwar*

    Rituals help. It’s one reason I enjoy commuting to work–the act of driving is a ritual, and I intentionally try to transition from “work” to “home” mentality. You can also have a set of outfits for work and outfits for home, and physically change cloths when you’re done working (my father always did this). Again, the ritual helps–putting on “work” cloths, even if it’s just a specific type of shirt, primes your brain to think about work stuff, and taking those cloths off tells your brain “Okay, work done, be home now”. Plus it’s something you can do even if you work from home.

    Having physical space set aside also works for many people. If you have an office space, you think about work stuff when you’re there, and not when you’re not there. It’s one reason why houses in the past had more, smaller rooms–you know what you were doing by what room you were in.

    That said, the reality is you’re going to occasionally think about work while you’re home. It’s normal–work is a huge part of our lives, and it’s insane think we can totally compartmentalize it away from everything else. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For example, I deal with a lot of contractors, and I use those skills to help me negotiate with people working on the house. If it is a bad thing, it’s important to remember it’s a normal thing because that allows you to be gentle with yourself. When you catch yourself thinking about work tell yourself “Silly human, we need to think about X right now.” It’ll take a while, but you CAN train your brain to avoid certain topics at certain times if you’re gentle with yourself.

  35. goducks*

    When I find myself ruminating on work, I try to ask myself if there’s a small, concrete thing I can do that will make me feel settled. Can I write a small note to myself to remember an idea I had? Can I send the meeting request that I need to send? Can I respond to that one email? Can I pull that one report? All of these are work, and I get that your goal is to not work outside of working hours, but I’ve often found for me that doing one small work task is enough for me to stop stressing over whatever. If I can’t stop stressing over telling myself I need to remember to do a task tomorrow, I’m often better off just doing the task (or whatever small part of it I can do to get my brain to let it go), than to stew and stew.

  36. Serious Silly Putty*

    Yeah I’ve been feeling this recently and haven’t figured it out. I’ve had to take melatonin if I’m trying to solve all the work interpersonal problems at bed time. Doing something very engaging with someone else — where I CAN’T think about anything else, even if my brain is pulling that way —can help some.

    Another thing I’ve tried is explicitly kicking the can down the road. Like I’m always putting off other things like dishes, implicitly saying “that a Future Me problem.” Sometimes explicitly saying “Fixing [interpersonal work issues] is a Future Me problem” helps me to let go.

  37. Jojo*

    So many good comments in this thread. I will definately be using some of these.

    I will say that I am really bad at meditating. My brain is a jerk and it just won’t allow it. However, what I find does work is investing in a creative endeavor. I do a lot of needle crafts, and focusing on the creative problems seems to feed the problem solving beast that is my mind in a much less stressful manner than work stuff does. And the great thing about crafting is that at first, your brain is focused on learning the craft, and then when you are more experienced, your brain is focused on things like which color will look the best and how do I get the point to stay pointy. In the past, I’ve seen this referred to as Flow, but I’m not sure if it’s still a thing that you could Google for more info. (Which I’m off to do).

  38. not the op*

    How about for over the weekend or pto? I tend to do ok within the work week but have this over extended away.

  39. Mid Level Brass*

    I find that treating the things that keep coming up as a specific work task that you need to plan and prioritize helps. So, for example, say you can’t stop thinking about a conversation with a difficult internal client. What outcome do you want? Is this something you can / should handle yourself or is the best course to pass this on to someone else? If it is on you to do something, make a specific plan. Then, when it keeps coming up outside of work, you can tell yourself that you have done / are doing everything you can about the situation. I find that reminding myself that I have used work time to think through an issue and make a decision about what, if anything, to do about it really helps to leave it behind at work.

  40. Eustace Reginald*

    This is a technique I learned in therapy, which I call the Jar Method. You imagine putting all the thoughts and stresses and worries about work into a jar (or box, etc.) and placing it on a shelf or in a closet and shutting the door. You try to make the imagination as vivid as possible, picturing each step as if you were really doing it, in your actual space. My jar “lives” in my bedroom closet. While doing this, you think to yourself, “Ok, these thoughts and worries are important and valid, but they’re not useful right now. I’m putting them away for now, but I will return to them later.”

    I’m not usually a big visualization person, but going through this routine really helps me manage anxious thoughts. Explicitly telling yourself 1. these thoughts aren’t useful right now, but 2. I will return to them later, I think allows you to create some distance while not making more stress about not dealing with urgent thoughts.

    1. M2RB*

      I really like this! I can personalize this route by imagining I’m setting my Jar on the corner of my desk at work. Then, when I get to work the next business day, I will have the Jar ready and waiting to be addressed.

  41. English Rose*

    I’ve found that workplace stress – both during the working day and afterwards – comes and goes with the effectiveness of my systems and processes. I’m a huge GTD fan (David Allen – Getting Things Done) and when that begins to slip is when the stress creeps in. His core principle is that your brain is for having ideas not holding them, so write things down in a trusted system to remember them.
    But a certain amount of reflecting and thinking about work situations during personal time is natural. Sometimes that’s when eureka moments occur about how to solve something.
    So as others have said, keep a notebook and write things down to get them out of the way.

  42. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    A lot of very good advice already here. I will offer that I had to make peace with the fact that no matter how desirable sweatpants are, working from home simply does not work for me. If my work is in my house, then any time I am in my house there is a part of my brain thinking that I should be working on my work because it’s an option. If my work is only at the office, my brain is freed alongside my physical body when I leave the office. These are things that can be overcome, but it would take more of my time and energy than I’m willing to spend, personally. I would rather rely on the external support of going to my office because I’m lucky to have one I like.

    I also find it’s harder to disconnect from my work when I feel like I haven’t done enough of it or my day of work wasn’t satisfying. I combat this by trying to be really careful to have a task list I can feasibly accomplish. The more accomplished I feel at the end of the day, the easier it is to let the day go.

    These are just things that have helped me and may not apply to others! I will also add that the right combination of medicines at the right dosages are the only reason these strategies could work for me. Sometimes you can try every strategy in the world and it will feel like nothing is working because the problem is in a chemical imbalance or something that can only be managed through medication. That’s okay! It’s just another tool.

    I think about it like I’m trying to drill a hole in the ceiling (don’t ask me why; hanging a planter?) and the medication is the ladder while the strategies are the drill. The drill works, but it can only make a hole if I can reach the ceiling. The medicine gets me up to the ceiling, but I still need the drill to make the hole once I get there. It takes both!

  43. Sled Dog Mama*

    I don’t do well with WFH (combination of my personality, the tasks in my job and that my home doesn’t have good space) so I do have a commute to help with the transition but the thing I find that helps the most is having a routine. On the way home I either listen to loud music to sing along with or a NSFW podcast or book. When I arrive home the first thing I do is change clothes (Healthcare so I got in the habit of changing completely during Covid and never stopped) then I splay with my dog. By that time I sufficiently in a “home” frame of mind.

  44. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    I literally talk to myself when work thoughts creep in to non-work hours. “That’s interesting, brain, but I’m not at work right now.” “Nope, not gonna think about this now, thank you!” “That’s a problem for tomorrow. Right now I’m enjoying hot cocoa with my kids.” I treat “work brain” like it’s a naughty toddler and send it to the corner!

    1. Dinwar*

      I’ll block out time in my schedule for this sort of ruminating. Then I can say “NOpe, not time yet.”

  45. Newbie*

    Just wanted to say I really feel this .. work for me has been a lot more stressful and frustrating than normal and it’s 100% impacting my mood and outlook outside of work. I hate it! I feel like I’m complaining constantly to friends and family.

  46. Rach*

    Three things that have really helped me switch gears were: Doing exercises after work. In the summer, I would take a long walk with a podcast or head the the local pool and zone out while doing laps. This winter, I recently got myself a gym membership and I find going to there from work, getting changed into workout gear and focusing on what I need to do at the gym puts me in a different mindset. Spin Cycling has really helped!

    Second: I have been volunteering with Cats at a Shelter for about 7ish years now and this has made a huge difference. I tend to do weeknight cleaning/social shifts and going there really helps release stress since I’ve got 6-8 furbabies to make me laugh.

    Third, I also try to give myself something to look forward to at the end of the day/week: planning a vacation, seeing a show or movie, a nice dinner or takeout or just even going to Target, the gym etc. This gets me excited about my life after hours and flips a switch in my brain.

    The biggest thing is I always tell myself after hours: “There’s literally nothing I can do about this right now. Put it in the back of your brain and you’ll get to it tomorrow”.

  47. Anonymous Koala*

    I think rituals are super helpful for transitioning out of work! For me sensory things like smells, clothing textures, and music really help me switch from ‘work mode’ to ‘home mode.’ But if you’re finding that work just randomly pops into your brain when you’re doing other things, could you maybe lean into that? Let yourself work a little when you’re not “at work” and at the same time, let yourself take more personal time during the day if you need it – for example, leaving early or taking a long lunch to get a hair appointment, doing a load of laundry in between meetings, etc. I was much happier (and productive at work) when I just embraced work as another one of the many things I do instead of trying to firmly enforce ‘work’ and ‘personal’ time.

  48. Katrine Fonsmark*

    I know this can’t work for everyone, but I work 100% remote, and it’s so important for me to have a dedicated office with a door. Once I close the laptop, which I really have to do by 5:00 to walk the dog, I close the door and don’t go back into that room until morning. I actually never go in there when I’m not working except to retrieve something from the closet.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I close my work laptop at the end of the day and I don’t have access to my email on my personal laptop. Also have to go through a whole security production to access my work stuff, so that makes it easier.

      That’s closure enough for me most days.

      Although there was the day that my office phone was still forwarded to my cell and I got a call before 6 am on Saturday and I almost answered it just to freak out the person who was clearly trying to just leave a voice mail.

  49. Legally Brunette*

    Especially when I work from home, I try to pick an extremely domestic activity to handle once I get into “comfy” clothes, like unloading the dishwasher. Something that’s as far from work as it gets helps turn off that part of my brain.

    When the inevitable work thought pops up (usually in the context of “I have to remember this”), I either put it on a note-taking app on my phone or on a sticky note with my work stuff. I’m less inclined to ruminate on work things after hours when I’m not worried about forgetting that great thought I had!

  50. teensyslews*

    – Build in time at the end of your day to do a mental gathering. Tidy up the to-do list, clean up your inbox, so you’re not spending the night thinking about what needs to get done the next day.
    – Build in a “commute” on days you WFH to mentally separate you from work.
    – Have a method (notebook, reminder on your phone, email yourself) to deal with work ideas that pop up after work hours. You can’t stop your brain from having the ah-ha moment after hours, but you can mark it down so mentally it moves to the next work day.
    – Decide both internally and with your partner how much you want to discuss work after hours. My house rule is “on work days, between arrival at home and the start of dinner” and then it’s done for the day.

  51. LucyGoosy*

    Two things for me:
    1) Exercising right after work has been really helpful for me–I sometimes also listen to an audiobook about something that is VERY unrelated to my job at the same time.
    2) I just try not to look at any screens at all after work. My husband and I have switched to listening to podcasts while we do other things (chores, cooking, playing with the dog, I personally like to knit). That makes it easier to fully disconnect and rest your eyes, and also makes it less likely that you’ll start answering work emails while you’re off the clock.

  52. FtheP*

    When I was in a very stressful job, I found that trying too hard to push away thoughts of work made it feel even more stressful, to the point that if I *didn’t* check my emails, I’d imagine all sorts of awful things happened. And I’d tie myself in knots trying to switch off.

    Perversely, I eventually found that what eased the stress was not trying to push it away but just live with it. Sometimes allowing myself to think about work issues outside of work gave me a sense of clarity and proportion.

    I guess just giving myself permission *not* to completely switch off meant it stopped being a big thing for me.

  53. Roscoe da Cat*

    Therapist had me do the rubber band around the wrist. Every time I started thinking about work on off hours, I would snap the rubber band and think “Not now” Worked surprisingly well.

    1. Phyllis Refrigeration*

      So does the negative reinforcement help long term do you think?

      I couldn’t imagine my therapist ever suggesting negative reinforcements, since the stress is already a negative reinforcement yet I continued to obsess over it.

      1. Roscoe da Cat*

        It did actually! I learned to stop myself pretty quickly and it made dealing with the bad work situation easier until I could leave.

  54. Bopper*

    The Trouble Tree
    Author Unknown

    The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

    On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

    Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

    “Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied.” I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again.”

    He paused. “Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick ’em up, there ain’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

  55. J*

    Not to sound flippant about it, but don’t knock looking into anxiety medication. I struggled with this issue (work stress/anxiety at home) for YEARS before i finally started talking to a professional about it. I sort of thought that’s just how life is. I’ve learned other practices that have helped as well (a number of which are discussed in other comments here), but I also think the medication I’ve been prescribed has been a huge help. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to be medicated or that it’s a cure-all, and maybe your problem is not as severe as mine was, but just noting that I was one who never wanted to consider it and now wish I had talked to someone sooner.

    1. Phyllis Refrigeration*

      Agree, and it took a REALLY long time for me to find the right medication. The medication I take is not even one of the “anxiety meds” a lot of off label stuff was tried and it did, finally help.

  56. Phyllis Refrigeration*

    This sounds twee, but therapy. Only until I sought therapy for other, very serious matters, was I able to not be bothered by my thoughts.

    What worked for me was ACT – acceptance and commitment therapy. Basically, you don’t try to banish thoughts, you learn to notice them but then move past them. So I don’t tell myself “stop thinking about this! Or, this is awful, think positively about work.” Its more just acknowledging that you are thinking those thoughts again and then getting yourself to be like…whatever. It’s like the opposite of toxic positivity. You acknowledge that it makes sense to have those thoughts but then you tell yourself…oh theres that thought again. Hard to really explain here. This takes practice and I’m assuming you could do it with self help books, etc although having someone to bounce it off of would be really helpful.

    Anyway, its so much more than some “parlor game” type things that are suggested in articles, its a real, conscientious retraining of your brain behaviors.

  57. Decidedly Me*

    I have to consciously push the thoughts away. When I realize I’m thinking on work, I move my thoughts to another topic. My partner knows to stop me after too much work talk, as well. If something about work keeps bothering me – I write it down to deal with the next day. This has helped a ton! Otherwise, it would literally keep me up at night, even on minor things.

  58. RG*

    My go-to mantra, whether I’m distracted by work stuff in my personal time or personal stuff at work, is “I’m not being paid to think about that right now.”

  59. mskyle*

    I have come to recognize that the thinking about work that I do when I’m taking a walk or doing laundry or whatever after the work day IS WORK (I often have good ideas/figure things out during that time) and I try to build that away-from-the-computer, non-meeting time into my workday now. Then I get to have at least some of those ideas when I’m on the clock instead of on my own time.

    So I think it kind of depends what you mean when you say, “thinking about various work situations” – if it’s unproductive ruminating, you’ve got lots of suggestions above. But if it’s actual useful work, think about whether your brain is doing that work at nights/on weekends because you’re keeping it too busy/distracted during work hours, and maybe build a walk or some laundry-folding or whatever into your work day.

  60. Gender Menace*

    My partner and I both work from home, with different positions in the same industry. So we end up talking about Job Stuff a lot after work. On top of that, I have OCD, so thoughts get very “stuck” in my mind and it can be nearly impossible to move on from them once they get started.

    Things that have helped me include (like so many others have suggested) taking my dog out immediately after logging out, taking a shower, and other things that clearly set a line between Work Menace and I Am Now Going To Be A Couch Lump Menace

    I’ve also realized that setting plans for after work helps me remember that I *have* a life after work. Doesn’t always necessarily mean going out (although trivia night is always a great distraction), but getting excited for what I’m going to watch with dinner that night, or playing a video game, or reading a book. Like the anticipation of it really helps me ramp up to relax after work, as opposed to feeling “ok, I need to turn my work self off.” Because, if I think about my work self, the OCD barges in with all the things I am trying to distract myself from, and I end up in a spiral.

    I feel you, OP. Thinking about work after work is so annoying, and can be really hard to stop. I’d definitely look up “rumination” and ways to avoid it, even if you don’t have a rumination-specific mental brain thing like me.

    1. Gender Menace*

      Ah, reading back on your question it doesn’t sound like you’re worried about the stuckness the way I had originally interpreted. Hope this is still even a little helpful though!

  61. Lpuk*

    I find it helpful to spend the last 5 minutes of my working day writing a list of what I still have to do/ do next and leaving it prominently on my desk as an official sign-off. Also suggest something like a Pilates or yoga class which focuses on breathing techniques and body alignment. It forces you to focus on those things and leaves no mind space for anything else!

  62. kiki*

    I have two things:
    1.) I set aside some time each week outside work to just mull over work stuff. Not to actually work, but just to think all my thoughts. I’ll often take a walk while doing this. I realized and accepted the fact that I am somebody who needs to mull things over and dwell. It’s better for me to accept that about myself and compartmentalize that time rather than constantly fight it. This way, when a work concern comes up, I can write it down for my week mull’s agenda

    2.) My job, like yours, is not at all life or death. When I have a particularly intrusive work thought I can’t get out of my head, I remind myself that nobody will die because of my work. Nobody will get sick. Nobody besides our own company will even lose money. And my company has lost money in dumber ways than I could possibly cause the company to lose money, so even if my actions do cost the company money there is no shame on my part.

  63. TechWorker*

    I find it really interesting the way the answers are split between ‘stop thinking about it & come up with a ritual to mentally close the box’ and ‘use a notebook to write things down’ (arguably more doing work). I am in category #2 – I have got A LOT better at not ruminating on work stuff outside working hours, but using an app to track my todo list that I can get to from my phone was part of that. Now if I randomly remember something, it goes on the list and I mentally park it, rather than being like ‘oh god I forgot to do x today’ or ‘I really must remember to talk to Bob about y tomorrow’.

  64. Donn*

    Agree with @Kiki’s #2.

    Another approach is to ask yourself, “Is anyone else stressing about X the way I am?” If not, then you shouldn’t stress about it either.

    it took me years to learn that, and even now I’m still getting the hang of it for various reasons. My former employer was a typical corporate monstrosity that was lackadaisical about many things it shouldn’t have been.

    A client would have to fire them before they’d even notice. Come to think of it, that probably didn’t happen more often because many clients were also corporate monstrosities, lackadaisical or both.

  65. SusieQQ*

    The short answer: mindfulness.

    The cryptic answer: If you’re doing something, you’re not doing something else.

    The long answer: The thing that really worked for me was literally asking myself “What’s more important?” One day I found myself thinking about one of my reports, “Dave” after work. Dave had gotten screwed over and I was so angry, and I didn’t know how to stop thinking about it. I didn’t know that I *wanted* to stop thinking about it, because I pride myself on being empathetic, and an empathetic person would be angry about the injustice. Then one of my co-workers said to me “Who’s more important, Dave or your son?”

    It was like something clicked in my brain, of course my son is. I realized that if I’m stewing over what happened to Dave, then I’m not fully present with my son. I also realized that I can be empathetic to Dave and also have boundaries.

    For me this has worked wonders. It doesn’t stop the thoughts from coming, but it means that when I have thoughts about work after hours, I can acknowledge them and then let them go.

    1. SusieQQ*

      Just wanted to add that I don’t mean to imply you need to have kids to do this. The question can be “What’s more important, work or your partner?” “Work or your book?” “Work or going for a run?” Literally anything.

      I also like that sometimes the answer might be “work is more important” because it’s okay to think about work outside of work if that’s what you want to do. And I do find myself doing that, in moderation.

  66. Regular Human Accountant*

    I routinely dream about spreadsheets so am reading avidly through these suggestions . . .

    1. ferrina*

      Dreaming is a bit different. You can redirect your dreams, though. I had success by focusing on what I wanted to dream about before I fell asleep. Not just “dinosaurs would be cool”, but deeply focusing until I felt like a sci-fi character falling into the void. After a while of doing that, my dreams started following what I requested, and after longer, I was able to control my dreams. It’s tapping into a part of your brain that we don’t really have a reason to consciously tap into.

      You can also replay and rewrite dreams as you are waking up. Once you realize what you were dreaming, go back and imagine yourself back in the dream. Then imagine the dream taking another course- you’re looking at spreadsheets and then you realize it’s snowing. Someone yells out “Agent Regular Human Accountant!” and you realize you’re a secret agent who needs to ski down the mountain to retrieve the briefcase. This can help train your brain to dream a different way. It’s also really helpful when your dream impacts your mental state (I use when I have a really bad nightmare)

    2. MicroManagered*

      I totally joke about “dreaming about spreadsheets” all the time! People will be like and then what? what happens to the spreadsheets? and it’s like no, that’s it. That’s the dream.


  67. kalli*

    Look, sometimes you’re going to have your brain come up with work stuff when you’re not at work because a) it’s a common thing people ask about and then your brain runs with it while it’s the topic de jour, just like it might if you see a headline or ad about your industry or something else comes up that’s related enough to be a reminder, b) when your brain is ‘logged off’ it’s still processing but without noise, so when you’re not thinking about something it pops up connections and solutions you didn’t have realised before (e.g. shower thoughts, fridge thoughts, gym thoughts…) because you’re not thinking about it and/or c) you’re human and spend a quarter of your week at work and maybe half that again commuting or preparing for wor so naturally your brain, upon having a ‘work’ thought, tags it as important and makes you consciously aware of it. This is going to happen whether you have perfect work hygiene and all the working stress management mechanisms and keep yourself 100% busy when you’re not at work, commuting or sleeping. It just is. No matter how much you go ‘this is the available space in my brain, I am going to fill that by listening to music while I knit with my hands, tat with my toes, bounce on my medicine ball, drink my green smoothie and watch TV all at once so I cannot possibly think about work’, it will happen – you can distract yourself only so much.

    What you need to do is train your brain to go ‘yes, that’s a work thought, not now’. Acknowledge it, recognise it, and let it go. That way, eventually, when the work thoughts do come up, your brain has the pattern of ‘work thought, not work time, moving on’ and it doesn’t impact you or send the brain weasels scurrying at 3am or have you solving issues in the shower; it just recedes and you get back on with what you’re doing until it’s work time. Similar to cognitive behavioural therapy but instead of reducing the power of triggers or intrusive thoughts, you’re using the techniques to remind your brain that work is for work time – then if you take some of the other advice around having a transition space between work and not-work or a coming home ritual, your brain is primed to recognise that transition and delineate ‘work’ and ‘not work’ and prioritise accordingly.

    If you regularly have trouble focusing or directing your conscious thoughts it’s ok to be imperfect about it; another tool that can help is having a specific journal or document or pad for the ‘work’ thoughts and writing them down, and putting them away until work time. I personally find that less effective because writing the thoughts down solidifies them and gives them more power and presence and while they do pass once they’re written down, that’s also time and probably more development invested in them than letting them go would be. But if you can quickly scribble an abbreviated version or note to self instead of generating a bunch of paragraphs on something as simple as ‘it’s going to happen, just tell your brain it’s ok to let it go and eventually it happens less and less strongly’, then having the physical ‘this was a work thought so it has to wait for work time’ can also be useful in training your brain to delineate work vs non work time.

    If you don’t have a separate space or device kept solely for work and you have to like, work in your bedroom when you’re at home or you have to use your personal phone for work calls etc. that can also confuse the brain, which is also where having a physical transition can really help – it doesn’t sound like you have the sudden urge to just knock out emails at 3am on Sunday or anything, but making the ability to do that harder can also help because your brain may go ‘nup too hard’ and dismiss it before you consciously think it, a bit like how you can sometimes hit the snooze button without waking up and consciously going ‘I will set the alarm for 15 minutes into the future and then fall straight back to sleep until it sounds again’ – your brain just does that without you really waking up to think about all the steps. In this case, though, it goes ‘nup it’s too hard to switch the SIM out to get on email and remind Noctis that he has sword training tomorrow’ or ‘too much effort to set up the computer and log in and see if the Niflheim team have their magitek production back on schedule so I can prepare a request for resources from Tenebrae to get to them on Monday if they’re ready for them’, and you maybe get a ‘hmm sword training tomorrow, better wake up five minutes early to have time to stretch first, oh wow I want food now’.

  68. sara*

    I have a job where I’m usually working on a few different complicated problems at a time (senior software developer). Sometimes, I don’t mean to think about work when I’m not working, but sometimes it happens – I’ll be fixated on a problem I’m stuck on and I just can’t not think about it.

    I don’t always handle this well, but the most successful tip for when just getting distracted by non-work things doesn’t work is to set a timer for like 5-10 minutes and write down all the thoughts I’m having about the issue. Frustrations, ideas I want to try out, fears about what will happen if I don’t solve the problem, stress/anger about why someone else (or past me) did something in such a ridiculous/complicated/not-good way, etc. I write them all down in a spiral notebook and leave the notebook with my computer for the next day. I use a spiral notebook so I can rip the pages out the next morning. I’ll get any good nuggets of ideas etc out of there and onto my work todo list, and the rest gets recycled.

    Sometimes, though, I just get a brainwave of a possible solution to an issue, and in those cases when it’s seeming like a really good idea, I’ll just try to implement it. Or if it’s a bigger issue, try out the fix enough to see if it’s actually a good idea. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with an idea, coded for 15 minutes and gone back to sleep easily knowing I’ve got the start of something ready for the next day. If I don’t and try to just go back to sleep (or even just write a short note to myself about the idea), I can’t usually fall back asleep (or get back to my non work life) because I’m too curious about if the idea will work.

  69. Modern Drunkard*

    Wash glass in vermouth, add 125ml no.1 gin at -4 c, garnish with amalfi lemon peel

    …what was the question again ?

  70. Such is life.*

    The way I deal with this seems to be different than most folks who have commented so far, so let me add…

    It takes a lot of mental energy to manage a team. Sometimes I would find myself going over an issue again and again and again. Trying not to think about it didn’t work, so instead, I allowed myself to get engrossed in it. I think about the issue, I think about it a different way. Then I decide what I’m going to do next about it. The next step may not solve the entire problem, but it reframes the issue for me and turns a circle into a more linear, actionable path. Ideally I am able to do this on work time, but every once in awhile this creeps over into non-work time, and that’s fine as long as it’s not all the time.

    My suggestion, insofar as you’re able, is to think through these issues and come up with actionable steps in the course of your work day. If they’re not hanging over you in the evenings, you won’t be tempted to dwell on them then. But every once in awhile you will bring them into your non-work time, so have some grace with yourself. It’s because you care about your work and your team.

  71. Loz*

    I’ve had this problem too in the past (it was a real issue for me) and have found the only thing that helps me is keeping my mind busy with something else when I leave work to allow me to reset. Perhaps a tad extreme but I once wrote a book so forced myself to think of that instead of work. Now I am learning another language. I’m not great at it but it does trick my brain into defaulting to something else instead of work as I find that exercise/relaxing etc in itself didn’t help if work was still my mental default. I also find that after a spell of writing or language learning I can then enjoy blissful mental emptiness

  72. Gigi*

    I have ADHD, so here’s the neurodivergent perspective:

    1. I believe everyone writing about exercise is spot on. I blew out my knee last year and I didn’t realize exactly how much heavy lifting it was doing for my mental health until it was gone.

    2. With ADHD and anxiety, many of those “work problems” I’m fixating on can be conversations I’m fixating on or other things I wish I’d done better. For me, what helped was following what a yoga teacher once told me if my mind wandered during practice. Just label it “thinking” and then move on. That stops me because A) I realize I’m doing it and B) I also don’t get into the vortex of blaming myself for obsessing over the thing I blame myself for.

    3. App games aren’t normally something anyone thinks are a good thing, but focusing on something mindless while I’m watching tv allows me to decompress and occupies my mind on something that’s not work. If you’re trying to cut down on screen time, maybe old school solitaire?

    Mostly, I hope all these responses help you internalize that this is very normal and something most of us are struggling with. Good luck!

  73. Lucy P*

    I work a regular 8 hour job with little overtime, but I’m still required to be on call 24/7 for emergencies. I’ve had very few emergencies, but still get texts into the evening from sole proprietor contractors whose work day doesn’t end at 5:00. Thus it makes it really hard to shut off the work brain at times.

    The only things that have really helped getting out of that mode are reading and painting. I took up watercolor a year ago and have found that when I paint, I cannot focus on anything other than the painting I’m working on. No other hobby has done that for me.

  74. Wowzers*

    I also work from home, and having a physical demarcation is what helps me the most. I physically put away my work computer and don’t cross paths with it until the next day. If it’s more that work is on your mind, and letting your mind be on work or drift to work has become a habit, choosing activities to do after work that force your brain to focus elsewhere and create a new habit could be useful. For me, this has to be really purposeful, and I can’t kind of half do it – like I can’t just watch TV if I want my brain to re-train.

  75. accidental office therapist*

    My method this year (do not recommend) is to be stressed about something completely different at home. They balance each other out and I have no time to ruminate about one while the other is happening. (Really, I don’t recommend it … but that’s how it’s been working.)

  76. TheLibraLibrarian*

    I have been told the following two tips:
    -be mindful of how often you are talking to others about work. Limit it to you drive home, five minutes, or none after you’ve finished eating dinner. It really helps separate things
    -put those thoughts in a mental box. Imagine physically locking them away. It helps immensely

  77. Rosyglasses*

    This is really hard for anyone working in a mostly mental state (managers, strategic advisors etc). There was actually a really good episode on NPR about why burnout is spiking in people and its because we’ve moved from physical labor to mental labor and rumination. I think for those of us that are high achievers as well, we are constantly reflecting, replaying and considering what things we need to accomplish to be successful.

    I don’t know that I have the magic answer. I’ve tried physical movement, I’ve tried meditation and yoga, I have tried therapy – and for me I just had to quit my job to provide a physical and mental re-set. Those other things work in isolation, but I think that there can often be a tipping point where nothing can bring it back to center.

    I *think* this is the NPR episode:

  78. Original letter writer*

    I’m the letter writer, and I wanted to check in and say thank you for all of the responses. I’ll try to respond more individually as time allows, but I am seeing a consistent theme about the ritual/exercise/etc of building a separation.

    As an update, there was a specific stressful situation happening when I wrote in that has since resolved. I personally don’t think I could stay if it was at that level of stress forever, but it’s helpful to remind myself that it’s usually temporary.

    1. Irish Reader*

      it can be hard sometimes to shake it off, but to draw a line under my working day:

      – when WfH, I do not go back into the home office room until the next morning or during the weekend.
      – laptop is either in my bag or my home office desk.
      – my cellphone is a work-free zone. if they want me to answer messages after hours, they can get me a phone.
      – I used to be pretty good at going for a swim after work, so I need to get back into that.

      I relate a lot to Rosyglasses’ comment: managers deal in info management & trading all day long. Did I tell that person about the thing, did I update that file for Tuesday…. I think there comes a point where if you want to climb higher, then that’s more calls, info, hours… and is that worth it? I have been mulling over it, and maybe I am better off in a smaller organisation where I can have more control over what I do and fewer people to deal with. you know that PMP communication formula… if you are in a team of 10 people, then you have ~90 different potential communication channels across (I hope I remember the formula correctly, but hopefully you get the idea… the bigger the org/team, the more communication channels you have to navigate). I actually do not want to work in a fast paced environment. I can’t be effective if I’m tired or overloaded.

  79. Immortal for a limited time*

    If you’re working 40 hours a week and aren’t overly stressed, then it’s possible you are doing a normal amount of thinking about work and are actually creating stress for yourself unnecessarily by assuming you shouldn’t be thinking about it at all after hours. Psychologists know that the way to ensure somebody thinks about X is to tell them NOT to think about X. I, too, have a great job that keeps me very challenged but that doesn’t require working excess hours. Nobody will lose their life if I fall behind in my work. I like my job and my colleagues, and I’m well respected and well paid for the type of work I do– which means my job is fairly important to me and I think about it at home. To me, that’s not a bad thing. It’s no different than, say, thinking about my favorite outdoor activities and hobbies even when I’m not doing them. Sometimes a solution to a work problem will pop into my head while I’m folding laundry or something. Is the amount of time you spend thinking about your job is getting in the way of doing other things, keeping you awake all night, or making you cry at the drop of a hat? If not, I’d say you’re probably just fine.

  80. Dorothy Zpornak*

    wait… are there really people who stop thinking about work? I would say I think about work literally every waking minute, and frequently dream about work and wake up in the middle of the night to worry about work problems.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I’d guess I rarely think about work outside work.

      #1 – I live alone and pretty much fill my mindless tasks time with podcasts or audiobooks so I’m generally not introspective and reflective

      #2 – I do think about my own plans and schedule, books/tv shows, my clubs/organizations, chores/tasks, gym workouts, food planning, shopping, and prep, and how little time I have in my life because I work 40 hours a week.

      It’s not that I never think about work outside of work hours, but it’s rare. When I do think about work, it’s probably some frustrating task I do not want to do and have been procrastinating which isn’t really a common occurence.

  81. Merry and Bright*

    My therapist recommended a tapping app, instead of meditation, for reducing anxiety after work. You can choose various lengths, and it narrates you through what to think about, so your mind focuses on something specific, and it also helps you focus on your body, to relax clenched muscles. I learned that tapping is used by emergency personnel to help people in emergencies calm themselves down.

  82. K*

    If you figure this out, let me know! I’ve tried all the usual demarcation of work time rituals etc, and daily meditation and yoga. I’m not even a manager!

  83. girlie_pop*

    1) If you are finding that you’re coming up with solutions or remembering things you need to do when you’re next at work, write them down somewhere, like a planner or the Notes app on your phone. I find writing that kind of stuff down so I won’t forget lets me mentally check it off and be done with it.

    2) My therapist taught me a mindfulness technique for when I find myself with racing thoughts or can’t get something out of my head. I stop and think for a moment about what I’m feeling, and then I name the feeling and what’s causing the feeling. I say it out loud to myself when I’m alone, but if not, I just say it to myself in my head. So I might say, “I am stressed about finishing X assignment on time,” or “I am embarrassed about some really basic feedback I got that I should have thought of before.” Naming it like that for some reason helps me leave it behind!

  84. Numbat*

    There are excellent suggestions here and I second a lot of them.

    One thing I would suggest is looking at whether there’s a kind of activity you’re doing in your non work time when work thoughts tend to pop up, and then try incorporate a little of that into your work day.

    Maybe not always 100% literally, but if you think about work while walking, can you build a walk into your work day, like walking while on a call or just taking a walk to specifically think about work things and generate ideas?

    I wonder if a little meeting-free, unstructured, low pressure thinking time in your work day would give these thoughts somewhere to go that isn’t your personal time.

    Side note: when I worked from home some of my best ideas came when I would duck outside to refill the bird bath. Something about watching the water would just give my brain the space to think of something I’d missed earlier or suddenly find the solution to something I’d been grappling with.

  85. Cartographical*

    Get a small notebook or a stack of cards and a card-holder — or if you use a paper agenda, assign a portion of it to notes for future consideration. When you have one of those thoughts, write it down and then put the item away. Repeat as necessary. The act will help you put things out of your head, literally, because they are on paper. When you get to work the next day, you can sort and assess those thoughts and weigh the validity of each of them, which will help you determine if it’s just random anxious thoughts or if your brain is genuinely chewing on ideas with merit.

    As you get used to the process, you can try reviewing things before you leave work at the end of the day to pre-empt the cycle of having things pop up in your head unbidden. Sometimes, however, at least in my experience, it’s the act of leaving work and being away from it that allows the space for some of those ideas to surface. Thinking of it once and making a note that clears my mind is less intrusive to me than trying to silence things my brain thinks might be important.

  86. Ghoster*

    It sounds cliché, but I like journaling when something is on my mind and won’t get out. I don’t do it regularly, and it’s certainly not eloquent, but it’s just a vomit of thinking and helps me to work through anything on my mind and help me move on.

  87. Jade*

    I literally work with life and death. Like people dying in front of me. You cannot bring the office home. I barely discuss work. I have a couple of coworkers to debrief with. I don’t discuss with relatives or friends not in the business. I like exercise to calm down. Our jobs are not for our families to bear. When I walk back into my home I have to deal with my work issues myself.

  88. ZugTheMegasaurus*

    For me, 2 things have been key: ending the day on a stopping point, and being extremely deliberate about it until it became more of a habit. I’m the sort of person who tends to thrive in crunch mode, work a 90-100 hour week without batting an eye, right up until I neglect myself to the point of just slamming into a (metaphorical) brick wall. My doctor pretty much demanded I figure out how to manage better!

    So the first part is ending my day on a natural stopping point. When I’m just grinding, I don’t even think about things in sequential order or try to time them, which makes it incredibly easy to just never switch my brain off. So say I need to draft a document and then forward it to a subject matter expert for review, I’ll send that at the end of the day; since I ended on putting the ball in someone else’s court, I don’t have to keep thinking about it.

    The second part is just kind of creating a habit. You just have to be really aware and intentional about it at first. You catch yourself thinking about work after hours, you have to notice it, interrupt it, and deliberately direct your attention onto something more appropriate (whatever that may be). It’s really hard but it gets easier over time as you practice it. At least for me, it was like programming a switch in my brain that didn’t exist before; now I’m able to stop and redirect myself instead of just being pulled along by obsessive work thinking.

  89. Casey*

    I like to spend the last 10 minutes of my day updating/reviewing my task list, maybe checking on some flagged emails that were languishing or my “hold” pile needs attention and I can look at a couple things to decide if it needs to be added to the task list yet. Then I leave and know that there are no lurking monsters around the corner and I can completely forget about work. I never check email at home because if I see one, I will think about it all night even if it doesnt need immediate attention. The curse of anxiety! But that is how I manage. It helps that my boss is not a last minute, emergency fire drill type of leader and doesn’t drop things on me last minute for the most part.

  90. Funkywizaard*

    I work in the office two days a week and work from home three days a week. I take the bus to work and it’s a 45-60 minute bus ride. My rule is no thinking about work once I get off the bus. My last act of my workday when I work from home is to unplug my headset. I try not to think about work after I unplug my headset. If I start thinking about work, I yell STOP IT! It works most of the time.

  91. Just me*

    Something that works for me is to focus on a book to read, a complicated crochet or counted cross stitch project or other thing that requires concentration on something totally unrelated. Doing laundry or washing dishes doesn’t work!!!

  92. Aeryn*

    I find exercise after work is great for this! I used to be able to run or cycle home, and I would pedal all of the frustration out of my system (bonus, I cycle much faster when annoyed about something).

    It was then completely out of my system when I got home, and I was too tired to dwell on it further. Exercise releases endorphins, so I generally felt pretty happy when I walked through the door. I think it has to be relatively strenuous, but a 20min run on the treadmill would probably cover it.

  93. SK*

    The commute! Most of us view a long commute as a drag (and it often is!) but I’ve learned to really channel mine into a moment of zen. Books (audio or otherwise), podcasts, music, silence, meditation (if you’re not driving) are all great ways to take a moment for yourself. I find that by the time I’m home, I’ve had a enough time to disconnect from my day at work that I’m ready to enjoy the evening/weekend.

  94. Ebar*

    I always liked the Churchill approach from mid WW2 which was to mutter “B****r everything til morning”.

  95. RWM*

    I’ve found that brain dumping all my thoughts in a journal when I get home helps a lot, and I’ll set a timer for 20 min so I don’t ruminate for too long. Sometimes you just need to get all of those thoughts out of your head and *somewhere* even if it’s just on paper. I’ve been surprised by how much easier it is to mentally move on after doing this.

  96. Madame Arcati*

    I work in an environment where it is extremely important to our mental health not to think much about work when we are off duty. Here’s my advice.
    Consciously try to leave work at work, whether that’s when you walk out the office door or when you shut your laptop etc. Easier said than done perhaps but try to move straight to another task – walk to your car/train thinking about what you’ll have for dinner or what you’ll do at the weekend. Get in/on that car/train and enjoy a (audio) book. When you get home immerse yourself in the things you have to do (cooking, chores, phoning your mum, searching online for cheaper car insurance) and the things you like to do. Sone people find the word hobbies a bit off-putting but a hobby can be candy crush or having a bubble bath with a copy of What Carp magazine or trawling the internet for amusing badger videos. The point is, you need to maintain a life outside work and if you make that a good life you can put work on one side when you are not at it.
    I once had a colleague who failed at this – all their socialising was after work with colleagues, all their romantic relationships were with work people, they didn’t really bother with establishing a home life (rented a room – not shared a flat/house – and it was for eating and sleeping. The social equivalent of an astronaut eating a nutrient pill and not enjoying real food) and the result was, they stewed over every problem, fell out with everyone and ended up flouncing out of a good job. Because they had nothing else to think about or to draw energy or joy from

  97. Kari*

    1. At the end of the day make a priority list of issues that need to be addressed, activities that only you can do, activities you can delegate to others and follow/ups.
    2. Put time in your calendar to address the top 3-5 priorities. If you have more time you can refer to the list.
    3. Use you commute, if you have one, to look forward to home or just relax and think about fun things.
    4. Have compassion for yourself as you make this change. Laugh a little when work comes up in the evening because you know you have a plan.

  98. MythicalCreature*

    Oh delineation when you’re working from home is so important – it sounds silly but I sit on a different seat on the couch when I’m working from home versus just relaxing. Such a small thing but it knocks my brain into gear or out of it!

  99. Jaime aguirre*

    Just a thought. I had a similar issue – a seemingly normal amount of stress, but ruminating endlessly. I had generalized anxiety, and some therapy and a small dose of meds improved my quality of life drastically. You might consider getting screened by your doctor!

  100. TheErstwhileLibrarian*

    Cross Stitch. I’m a first time manager in a new organization, and dealing with a dysfunctional team in a separate division that’s impacting my deliverables. I picked up cross stitch (really I was just looking for some sort of busywork craft to help me relax over the course of standard time winters), and it’s surprisingly helped a lot.

  101. London*

    I’m single and work from home. Best way I’ve found to make the transition after work is to watch a funny clip or video. Key & Peele or It’s Always Sunny really help me relax, laugh (endorphins!) and stop work thoughts from dragging after me when I’m off the clock.

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