Latalia White, Marriage and Family Therapist

For many of us, the transition from the workplace to home can be stressful and bring less relief than we’d like. For workers who feel unable to turn off a stream of negative thoughts, feelings, and memories from the workday, home may feel less relaxing than it should. Feeling as if you have no control over the stress of work spilling into your evening at home is a sign that you need stronger boundaries in place to help keep these parts of your life a bit more separate. It’s easy to get into the habit of unloading onto your partner or other loved ones each night once you’re both home, allowing work stress to take up a chunk of your precious time together. One way to help keep work stress from invading your evenings at home is to create a transitional routine that signals to yourself that it’s time to turn off work until the morning – and this routine doesn’t have to be expensive or incredibly time-consuming. Here are 5 low-cost ways to mark the transition from work to home:

1. Take a walk.

Even taking a short 10 to 15-minute walk around your block or neighborhood can be enough to signal to your brain that it’s time to start thinking about something other than tomorrow’s to-do list or that colleague getting under your skin – and it’s good for your physical health. If there is any room in your work commute to exchange riding/driving for walking, take that opportunity to fit in a walk after work. (It’s often easier to implement a new habit if you tie it to an existing habit in your routine.)

2. Listen to a podcast.

Listening to a podcast every evening when you make it home can provide a pleasant and intellectually stimulating boundary between work and home. Today there is enough variety in themes and lengths of podcasts that there are bound to be at least a few podcasts that are appealing to most people. If you live with someone else, take this up a notch by listening with them and discussing it afterwards.

3. Read a book or magazine.

Find something that interests you without much regard to what you may think you ought to be reading and allow yourself to read for as much time as you can manage. Take advantage of your local library if you are in need of a free way to implement this into your evening routine. It’s important to not choose reading materials that are related to your job and/or evoke stressful thoughts or feelings: the point of this routine is to take your mind off work!

4. Cook.

Chances are that you need to eat dinner in the evenings, and many people find cooking or baking cathartic. If you’re able to, maybe start prepping dinner as soon as you get home to let yourself know that you’re home and it’s time to nourish your mind and body. If that’s unattainable, even just grabbing yourself a small snack or a cup of tea and taking 15 minutes to consume it once you’re in the door can do the trick.

5. Journal.

If it feels impossible to do any of the above without getting the day’s work off your chest, try journaling instead of venting to others about work or just letting the negative thoughts roam free in your mind. Buy a cheap notebook at the store and dedicate it to work content. Every evening when you get home, set a timer for around 15 minutes and purge as much as you can until the timer goes off. After that time, commit to mentally moving on until the morning.

Work is stressful for many of us. It’s important to figure out a way to make the boundary stronger between work and home if you’re struggling with “turning it off” at the end of the workday. Burnout is real, so if trying the above suggestions doesn’t seem to help, consider seeking out a therapist to discuss how your work is impacting your life.