How to wind down for sleep after your workday
- Mar 25, 2021
Well, we have officially hit the year mark of when this global pandemic was declared and our home and work lives, as we knew it, changed. For many of us, a year later we are still working from home, our children are also still at home participating in e-learning, and each day is looking strikingly reminiscent of the day before. Those early days of working from home, seem so long ago now. We have learned so many new skills. Our familiarity with Zoom calls has evolved from leaving embarrassing screen names from the weekend social Zoom call-such as “LactoseTheIntolerant”, to be able to change our background to appear as though we are in the archives of the New York Public Library; rather scholarly! We have learned the importance of ensuring that we are most definitely logged out of those video calls before carrying on as one typically does in the comfort of their own home, to almost mastering duct taping the kids to their chairs so they do not interrupt those important meetings with clients. As we move into the second year of this pandemic, we can reflect on how far we have come, how many obstacles we have conquered, and can look ahead to see where we are going.
Initially for some, working from home seemed a daunting proposition. There is a subgroup of individuals who feel more productive when working in an office environment rather than in their jammies nestled on the couch with their favourite pooch and cozy blanket. For these people, human interaction is vital to their creativity, drive, energy, and all-around well-being. It is safe to say that for this group remote working has been a challenge. Going back to the brick and mortar of their employer’s office will be nothing short of a relief. More than just the social connections from work there are other benefits. The advantage of going to an external location to work is that you have time during your commute to get your head in the game and brace yourself for the day ahead. At the end of the day that commute, once again, offers one time to reflect on the accomplishments of the day and truly check out of work-mode. There is a clear boundary between work and personal life.
For those on the other side of the spectrum, working from home seemed like an attractive option. In fact, it was so attractive that 30% state they would quit their jobs if they were forced back to their offices after the pandemic (Davidson, P., 2021). For those who enjoy working from home, their wishes may be granted. Forbes Magazine reported on a survey conducted by Enterprise Technology Research, which found that the number of individuals expected to work from home has doubled since pre-pandemic numbers (Castrillon, 2020). So, what does this mean? It means we will need to pay extra attention to figuring out how to separate our working hours and our “off-the-clock” hours. We will want to emphasize how we can clearly delineate between the workday and our personal lives. We will want to highlight ways we can wind down on weekday evenings.
Winding down can be different things for different people. But why do we even need to wind down? Winding down is a necessary stage in preparation for sleep. During the unwinding process, we can let go of the worries and stresses of the day. By keeping these at bay, we are able to transition to our sleep phase unfettered by the tasks and commitments from work and life which may occupy our minds. Having a clear mind prior to sleeping allows for a more regenerative and restorative sleep, which in turn benefits our well-being, memory, learning, functioning and health.
The key to determining how you wind down is to recognize the kinds of activities that allow you to clear your mind. The goal is to deliberately put all of your work and life concerns on the bus headed for Another-day-ville. For some, this may include a run around the neighbourhood. For others, this could be playing with your pets or children, walking with a friend, catching up on the latest Royal Family drama, or any other number of activities that provide your mind with a reprieve from pressures and commitments that endure. This all seems well and good, but practical application is a whole other skill set. In order to ensure we wind down, consider taking the following steps:
1) If possible, ensure your workspace is separate from your living space. If it is not, at minimum make an attempt to cover the workspace, even if that means using a bedsheet.
2) Mind the time. If your workday at the office ends at 5:00 pm, ensure this remains the same, when possible, at home. It is far too easy to put in another 30 minutes of work whilst waiting for the chicken to bake or during those few minutes of episode recaps and opening credits on your favourite Netflix show. When the workday is finished, let it be finished. Shut the computer down, close the door or throw on the bedsheet, walk away from the workspace and no one will get hurt.
3) Create a list of favoured unwinding activities so when you are too tired to even decide what to do, you can refer to your handy list. Ensure there are plenty of options that take into account inclement weather, or other possible obstacles.
4) Make a commitment to yourself and invest in your self-care. Unwinding is important.
5) Recruit family or friends to create accountability for your unwinding, while also encouraging them to do the same (all safely distanced of course).
6) If a thought about work pops into your head that you just can’t seem to shake, write it down and move on.
Hopefully, by taking these steps you will find that your sleep improves and all of the other aspects of life that are tied to a restful night. If you are struggling to unwind or are having difficulties with the isolation of working from home, reach out to loved ones or a counsellor to help you.
Castrillon, C. (2020, December). This Is the Future Of Remote Work In 2021. Forbes Magazine. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2021/12/27/this-is-the-future-of-remote-work-in-2021/?sh=216fb55d1e1d
Davidson, P. (2021, January). Nearly 30% of working professionals would quit if they had to return to office after pandemic. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/01/05/jobs-home-29-professionals-would-quit-if-forced-go-back-office/4142830001/
Bernadette van der Boom-Bebb