Mentally Disconnect from Work to Improve Mental Health
After a busy workday, it's essential to let your mind recover and disconnect from work. Studies have shown that a healthy work-life balance benefits mental health by decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.1 For those struggling with bipolar and depression, finding this balance can be crucial to mental wellbeing, and it starts with a healthy work-mind balance. This means learning to mentally disconnect from work outside of work hours.
In today's world, that's easier said than done. With smartphones and modern technology, we're connected and reachable 24/7, which can make fully disconnecting from work difficult. It's easy to fall into a cycle of checking emails throughout lunch breaks, taking work calls over the weekend, and catching up or getting ahead on extra work each evening without being paid overtime.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with working hard, but always being on-the-clock means our brains are in constant overdrive without ever getting a chance to destress, and that can take a significant toll on mental health. Our brains need downtime to replenish and recharge. That means carving out periods to detach our minds from work completely.
Reasons to mentally disconnect from work:
- Greater work-life balance
- Decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Lower levels of job fatigue and burnout2
- Reduced stress
- Better sleep
How Disconnecting from Work Helps Me Manage Bipolar Depression
When I forgo taking mental breaks from work, I become too wrapped up in all of my responsibilities which makes me increasingly stressed and overwhelmed. Going too long like this without giving my brain a break is one of my biggest depression triggers. For me, the depression that follows a long period of work-related stress with no mental downtime is an incredibly physical depression with terrible muscle pain. It's like my brain becomes so exhausted that when it gives out, my whole body gives out along with it.
Allowing myself periods to completely tune out and detach from the mental clutter and stress of work is vital to managing my depression and it helps me go longer between episodes. On top of that, spending time engaged in my existence outside of work helps me to feel a more well-rounded sense of purpose and joy.
Tips for Mentally Disconnecting from Work
Leave Work at Work
- Break the habit of opening your email every five minutes, even if that means keeping personal email accounts separate from work accounts.
- Silence any group messages related to work for the entire evening.
- Let unscheduled phone calls go to voicemail.
- Let colleagues, clients, and supervisors know when you will and won't be available.
Positive Action Plan
If you struggle to power down from work, or the thought of spending some evenings completely cut off from work makes you anxious, considering changing the way you think about it. Instead of viewing your downtime for all the actions you won't take, such as, "I won't work," or, "I won't open my email," establish for yourself all the things you will do in that time. For example, "I will take time to recharge," or "I will be fully present at dinner with friends."
Be Firm with Your Time
If your job requires you to be available outside of work hours, you may need to manage your time more assertively. Be strict about weekends being time-off or pick at least one day a week to mentally check out after work. Inform work associates of the window of time you'll be unavailable and when you'll get back to them. Cover all bases, so when it comes time to take that break, you can mentally disconnect in full.
Remember, you're not letting anyone down by valuing your mental health and taking time to protect it. Striking a healthy work-life balance is imperative for mental wellbeing and managing bipolar episodes and depression. Be kind to your mind and take the time to treat yourself.
- Haar, J., Marcello R., et al, "Outcomes of Work-Life Balance on Job Satisfaction, Life Satisfaction and Mental Health: A Study Across Seven Cultures." Journal of Vocational Behavior, December 2014.
- Sonnentag, S., "Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time: The Benefits of Mentally Disengaging From Work." Current Directions in Psychological Science, March 2012.
Cawthorne, N. (2019, September 25). Mentally Disconnect from Work to Improve Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/workandbipolarordepression/2019/9/mentally-disconnect-from-work-to-improve-mental-health