After working a long, 12 hour shift, it’s hard to leave that behind you when you walk through your front door. It’s hard but so important so that you can protect your mental health and spend time with your loved ones. If you spend a lot of time at home worrying about work or your patients, that stress comes home with you. This keeps your mind in the fight or flight mindset. Over a long period of time, this can do true damage to your nervous system, essentially trapping you in a perpetual state of stress.
So what can we do to try and leave work at work more often? A coming home ritual is a perfect way to help you move from your work to your home without the stress that work inherently brings you. This ritual should promote the rest or digest mindset instead so that you can wind down, enjoy your evening, and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep.
So how do you create this coming home ritual? It’s different for everyone but should contain a few main components:
1. Create a clear end to the work day
This is more difficult now following COVID and more and more people working from home. However, when you do work at the hospital, creating a clear end to the day is important. I do this by taking a few deep breaths or doing a short meditation once I get to my car. Doing this at the end of every work day will train your brain to know that this signifies no more work.
This is a way to prevent your mind from going straight back to work before you get home. For me, this is playing music loud on my drive home and singing along. It could also be podcasts or listening to an audiobook. Just do something that keeps your mind engaged but not stressed.
I do a quick check in journaling on my phone. I have an app with a journal function but you could use your notes app just as easily. I answer the prompt: Right now I’m feeling ________. Type a few sentences out and see what comes up for you. I usually do this after my meditation session before I drive home but you can do it once you get home as well. This could also include a brain dump on those especially hard days where you have a lot on your mind and need to get it out.
This is the final stage of your routine. I take a few minutes when I get home to wash my face and put on comfy clothes and sometimes sit down for a few minutes with my husband to catch up. I usually workout after work too so this includes my yoga practice too, but it can be anything that works for you and gets you ready for a relaxing evening.
Play with your activities and see what works best for you so you can shift into the rest or digest mindset and enjoy your evening off.
Alison Shely is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, guest blogger, and healthcare worker wellness.
Visit her website for coaching details and other writing samples.
Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.