Everyone wants to start a new year off on the right foot. But, while you might want to change things about your actual work day, it can be hard to control what happens when you’re “on the clock”. The good news – recovery after work can make a big difference in how you feel the following day. This is helpful because you can better control your recovery when you’re at home. But, you have to be strategic about how you approach recovery. Different approaches have different outcomes. Today, we highlight the 4 key strategies that are needed for recovery from your work day.

Detachment Aids Recovery

Detachment is the feeling that you are mentally removed from work. This means that you aren’t engaging in work tasks or thinking about work-related issues. We have talked about the importance of detaching from technology after work before. This is key because it might prompt you to engage in work tasks (e.g, answering an email) or it might encourage you to think about problems or issues you’re facing at work.

There are other ways to detach as well. If you find yourself constantly talking about work at home, or dwelling on interactions with coworkers or clients, you may need to do a better job of monitoring your thoughts and actions. Even if technology isn’t interrupting your off-work time, you can sometimes interrupt your own downtime. Overall, if you’re thinking about or doing work when you’re trying to recover, you’re defeating the purpose.

Unplugging is key for recovery
If you really want to recover, you need to unplug from your work – mentally and physically.

Relaxing is a Must for Recovery

We have all promised ourselves that we were going to relax – and then broken that promise – before. Relaxation, particularly in today’s demanding culture, seems selfish. But, relaxation is necessary if you want to be able to perform better the next day. When you’re at work, especially if your job is stressful, your body is in a state that is “activated”. In order to combat this activation, you need to introduce some activities that stop that activation and allow the body to rest. Otherwise, you’ll be in constant “go mode”, which can result in negative health outcomes in the future.

In other words, the body needs rest and your mind needs a break. Relaxation can also help your brain to detach from negative emotions and to produce more positive emotions. This is important for the same reason. If your body is constantly in a state of stress, you will burn out. So, you need activities that make you feel happy, as a counterbalance. Relaxation can occur from taking a leisurely walk in nature, listening to music, meditating, or enjoying scenery, among other things.

Relaxation isn't a luxury - it's necessary for recovery
Relaxation isn’t a luxury! It’s necessary for recovery.

Aim for Mastery When You Can

While the goal of relaxing is to kick back and unwind, there are also positive recovery benefits of tackling interesting challenges outside of work. When you take a pottery class, achieve a fitness goal, or learn a new language, your mastery goal is activated. So, if you’re interested in something, spending time on it helps you recover. This means that a balance between relaxation and mastery might be ideal.

For example, you might spend 30 minutes meditating and then spend some time learning to knit. Both of these activities would help with your recovery, even though one is more passive and the other is more active. Achieving a difficult goal that is important to you, can also make you experience more positive emotions. So, while it might seem nice to just “veg” out, don’t forget those activities that make you feel like you’re progressing toward being the person you want to be!

Recovery Requires Control

We have discussed the importance of autonomy at work before. Turns out, it’s important to have control over your recovery as well. Being able to dictate how you spend your time out of work can have important consequences for your health. In fact, people who have less control at home tend to be more depressed in the long-term. So, it’s important to have conversations with family and friends about what you’d like to do in your “downtime” and to work with them to achieve it.

This means that, if your friend is dying to take a creative writing class, but it stresses you out, you might need to turn down the offer. Similarly, if you love yoga but your family always seems to interrupt, you might need to find strategies to communicate the importance of this activity to your wellbeing. Overall, people like to be in charge of themselves and their day. When it comes to recovery, things are no different.

Research has shown that using all four of these strategies is the most effective way to decrease emotional exhaustion, increase your ability to perform, and boost your capability to be physically healthy. But, if you can only use one, that’s better than nothing! How have you tried to detach, relax, master your goals, and control your recovery?

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