Stress Less, Stress Relief

Smart, Easy Ways to Unplug for Better Work-Life Balance

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By Libby Landry, NLC

Does being without your iPhone make you feel like you’re naked? If so, you’re probably over-connected.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 36 percent of smartphone users in the US said they “couldn’t live without” their devices. And while smartphones make many aspects of life easier—like planning and staying in touch with friends and family—they can also wreak havoc on work-life balance, since you’re perpetually available and are often expected to engage in work outside of office hours.

That inability to sign off can have real health consequences. One study from Kansas State University found that staying connected to the office at home can increase stress, leading to higher levels of fatigue and burnout. People under greater work-related stress are then less capable of self-regulating their behavior and emotions, which will undoubtedly impact your relationships. (Imagine you and your partner are about to sit for dinner and the phone buzzes with an email from your boss. Now you’re distracted, on edge, and thinking about what you need to do.) Finally, not putting your phone, laptop, and iPad away at a decent hour also impacts your ability to fall asleep, and sleep is crucial for optimal brain function, immunity, and more.

RELATED: Are Your Sleep Habits Messing With Your Mental Health?

So, what to do? Finding ways to unplug once you close the office door behind you is one of the most beneficial steps you can take toward living a healthier, more balanced life. Here are some simple ways to actually make it happen.

4 Smart, Easy Ways to Unplug

1. Prep for the following day

Before you leave the office, create a to-do list for the next day. By spending just a couple of minutes getting organized, you can effectively leave work at work. No more running through that to-do list all evening. You’re also setting yourself up for success the following day by outlining exactly what needs to get done.

2. Engage in an analog activity

Find a hobby that forces you to leave your phone elsewhere. For example, take a spin or CrossFit class, go for a walk and leave the phone at home, or read a chapter of a new book with your phone in another room. The better you get at being present without technology, the easier it will feel to disconnect next time.

3. Use a timer

If you absolutely must finish some work at home, set a timer for a certain number of minutes. Once it goes off, disconnect.

4. Reduce notifications

You might not be able to turn all of your email, Slack, and Evernote notifications to “do not disturb.” (Hey, we don’t want you to get fired!) But if the notifications aren’t popping up on your screen every ten seconds, you’re less likely to be stressed out by things that really can wait until tomorrow. So get to know the culture of your office and then try to turn off as many as you can during off-hours. The same goes for setting personal boundaries. When possible, alert your colleagues and clients that you won’t be available after a certain time—and then stick to it. No answering emails, no sending emails. This sets the right expectation with all parties that you’re only free during certain times and don’t expect them to work at home, either.

Finding the perfect balance is not an easy feat and definitely requires some effort and planning. Experiment with some different strategies to figure out what sticks, and eventually, you’ll feel less dependent on that tiny device, and hopefully, less stressed.


unplug tips

Libby Landry is the founder of Simple Wellness Co., a corporate wellness consulting firm dedicated to making the workplace a healthier and happier place. Libby is Nutritious Life Certified and is passionate about all things health and wellness. She believes that it’s the little changes that have the most impact. Simple Wellness Co. is based in San Diego, but we never say no to bringing wellness outside of our backyard! Follow Libby on Instagram at @simplewellnessco.

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