Raise your hand if you’ve ever brought your work home with you—whether literally or figuratively. I can guess that most readers have their hands held high, because it’s not easy to leave work stress at the workplace.
But it can be dangerous to take it with you. Stress is harmful enough when you have to bear it all day at work. And if you have a stressful or high-pressure job, the stress doesn’t normally just magically disappear when you head home. Work stress can carry into your commute, your personal relationships, your evening activities, and of course your sleep. So when you bring it home, know that you’re putting your own health, well-being, and happiness at risk.
So how do you leave the stress and emotions from your workday at work?
Benefits of Post-Work Meditations
A few minutes of stillness will help you ease the transition between work and home life. Meditating between work and home is great way to transition from one chapter of your day to the next. For many of us, we play very different roles at work and at home. Think of post-work meditation like a reset button to create some separation from your different roles in life.
If you’re looking for greater work-life balance, taking time to consciously let go of whatever may have happened during the day and refocus your attention and energy on your family, friends, and evening projects or activities is a productive first step. Post-work meditation will help you take control of your personal time—and will generally benefit you and your loved ones tremendously.
How Can I Possibly Fit This Into My Schedule?
You might be thinking that you’re usually running late to get the kids, make dinner for your spouse, go to yoga, or meet up with your friends for happy hour… how will this possibly work?
All you need is five minutes to get organized for the next workday and five minutes of quiet to let go of your busy day and de-stress.
Start here: About five or 10 minutes before you need to leave the office, wrap up your work and create a list of to-dos for the next day. Make any notes you don’t want to forget about, problems that will need to be solved, and items that will be your high-priority to-dos the next time you return to work.
Then, you need to find the five minutes of quiet. Here are some possibilities of when and where you can squeeze in that post-work meditation:
Before You Leave Work
If you have a commute from work, meditating before you hop in the car or on the train will take the edge off of the commute. Once you get organized for the next day, turn off your computer and sit quietly at your desk with your eyes closed so you can hit the inner reset button before you head home.
If you don’t feel comfortable meditating at your desk, if it’s too distracting for you, or if you just don’t want to associate your meditation with work, try taking five minutes in your car before you drive home. Of course make sure this happens before you start your car.
On Your Commute
If you’re not the one driving on the commute, try a short meditation on the bus, train, or subway.
If you are driving—and meditating at work or home won’t work for you—find a park or quiet space on your way home to break up the commute, connect with nature, and let go of the worries from your day.
When You Get Home
If you find that your commute is particularly stress-inducing—and some of the stress you are bringing home is actually coming FROM your commute—you can take some time to meditate as soon as you get home from work.
If you know you can’t find a quiet place inside, try a short meditation in your car outside your house. Park and turn your car off, then find a few minutes to sit quietly in meditation before walking into the house. This is especially helpful if you have young kids or social roommates.
If you can walk in the door and meditate somewhere that’s quiet right away, waiting until you get home is a great option. Just make sure you do it as soon as you walk in the door before you do anything else. Your significant other, family, and roommates will support you—and thank you—when they realize that it helps you become more present with them.
Simple Practice: After-Work Meditation
De-stress, let go of your busy day, and ease into the evening with this meditation.
- Sit up tall, get comfortable, and close your eyes.
- Take 3 cleansing breaths: inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling audibly through your mouth.
- Now bring your left hand to your heart and right hand to your belly. Inhale through your nose in 3 parts—first to expand the belly, then the ribcage, then the chest. Hold at the top for a count of 3, then open your mouth and let it out with a sigh. Repeat 3 to 5 times. You will feel your hands rise and fall as your breathe.
- Relax your hands into your lap, palms facing down, and inhale through the nose on a count of 3, then exhale through the nose on a count of 6… focusing on the exhale. Pause briefly at the bottom of your exhale before starting a new breath. There’s no need to rush to the next breath, let it come to you. Continue breathing with this pace.
- With each long exhalation, focus on leaving something from your day behind to clear space for your evening. If there are specific thoughts or worries that are lingering, bring them to your attention and then on an exhale, imagine them sinking down into the chair or earth beneath you, leaving your body and leaving the space around you.
- Continue at a slow, steady pace for a few minutes, focusing on the exhalation and sense of release with every cycle.
- Now imagine there is a giant door in front of you. As you take a deep breath, you open the big door and notice it’s heavy. You hold it open and as you exhale, you walk through the door and close it behind you. With this, you leave all of the stress from the day behind you—the conversations with your boss, complaints from coworkers, office gossip, pressure from deadlines, and difficult projects. All of the worries from the day remain behind the closed door as you continue walking forward and away from your workplace stress, allowing yourself to disconnect from the business of work for the time being.
- Finish your meditation with a few deep, cleansing breaths.
*This post was adapted from the book, The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People.