How to Stop Bringing Work Stress Home

There’s no such thing as work-life balance, but there are ways to detach from the day’s stressors.


No matter how energized you are by your work, it’s hard to think of a job that doesn’t involve at least some element of stress. Even if you are paid to pet puppies and sample new ice cream flavors all day while getting a massage, there’s still pressure to succeed. But because we still need to interact with the other humans in our lives after the end of a long workday — like our family, friends, or roommates — it’s a good idea to learn how to leave that stress at work.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, global CEO coach Sabina Nawaz outlines several strategies for making sure your work stress doesn’t follow you home — beyond the Thrive Microstep of declaring an end to our work day and staying off work email after a set time. Here are three of our favorites:

Schedule a post-work mini-transition

Going directly from work mode to home mode can be mentally jarring. One minute you’re anxious about making an upcoming deadline, and the next you’re expected to thoughtfully listen as your family tells you about their day. A lot of times, that’s easier said than done. That’s why Nawaz recommends adding an extra beat to your commute home. This could include anything from dropping by a park for a few minutes to quiet your thoughts, or looking at a photo of your family as you leave the train station to bring your focus back to them. This deliberate mini-transitions allows you to put work aside (at least for a while) and prepare for the joys and challenges that await you at home.

Talk about your work stress with someone outside your family

While you do want to let your family know when you’re having a particularly intense period at work, Nawaz says it’s a good idea to unload your pent-up frustrations on someone else. This could be a colleague (who has firsthand experience with the source of your work stress), friend, or mentor — just make sure it’s someone who is willing to listen to you vent, act as a sounding board, and, when appropriate, offer advice. Talking about what’s bothering you with someone you trust (who happens not to be related to you) is a good way of getting any pent-up emotions out there, without putting a strain on your family relationships.

Designate a “working late” day

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a job that ends at 5 or 6 p.m. every day. The trick for those of us who don’t is to be more selective with your time. To do this, Nawaz suggests selecting one evening a week as your dedicated night to work late. You can let your family know that you will be signing off later than normal, but that when you do, you will be fully present. Nawaz adds that it may be helpful to pick a set day each week to work late — that allows your family to make plans around your schedule, if necessary.

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