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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How to Leave Stress at the Office

I find it hard to leave stress at the office. Sometimes it's because I can identify with issues my patients are experiencing and empathize so much with their struggles. Recently I've been stressed over the fact that my great administrative assistant, Kathy, is moving with her family to Nashville. I know I can overcome how stressed I feel because I know: when we bring stress home we tell our friends and family that their time isn't as valuable.

M. Scott Peck said, "Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it." I challenge you (and myself!) to value your time at work and at home and to stay in the Smart Zone.

One thing I hear when working with managers and executives who work long hours is that, at the end of the day, it is difficult to shake the feeling of being at work. Even when they get home they don't feel "at home." They feel disconnected and preoccupied with what took place during the workday or are anticipating the problems of the next day.

Part of the issue is that the intensity during our workday is different than the intensity of our home lives. Although our home and work life both take considerable mental and physical energy we still have to shift gears when we walk in the door at home.

In my business we provide strategies to stay in the Smart Zone that will improve productivity at home and work. But don't do this! Here are Smart Moves for leaving stress at the office:

  • Do you leave work and then use that same part of your brain at home? When I work on my financials at the office and then come home and work on bills, my brain is going to get overwhelmed. I've recently started taking serious Yoga classes near my home so I can balance how I use my body and my brain. As my instructor Carlos says, "Bring peace and calm into your world."

  • Are you finally energized by 3:00 in the afternoon? Eat a late afternoon snack that is high in carbs but low in fat and protein - like a granola bar, fresh fruit or a bagel. This type of snack jump-starts the amino acid in the brain that promotes a relaxation response.

  • Do you immerse yourself in work related content 24/7? What is by your bedside? Business books, financials, proposals? I have taken a sabbatical from business books to read bestsellers so I am exposing myself to more than just business and psychological literature. Right now, want to know what is by my bedside? The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. All 723 pages. I will be sorry when I finish it because it is such a great book.

  • Set aside 10 minutes after lunch to return personal phone calls. This will eliminate your need to talk on your cell phone on the drive home at the end of the day. Instead you can listen to good music or an audio book. Click here for ways to maximize your lunch break.

  • Carve out transition time. Devote the final hours of your workday to some of your least-pressured tasks. I like listening to music on Grooveshark and doing paperwork. Thanks to my buddy Rex, I've now got speakers mounted on the inside of my desk so I can really enjoy my end of the day paperwork. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by completing at least one thing before day end.

  • Don't talk about work when you first get home. When you walk in the door at home resist the urge to immediately start talking about your day. Cooper and Sawaf, authors of Executive EQ, call this a "transitional buffer zone." This is time to renew your spirit of being home. Don't run to your computer to return emails. You might first greet your family, get your children a snack and change into some comfy clothes.

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