9 Tips on How To Disconnect From Work And Stay Present

Have you ever wondered why you are bringing so much work back home? We all have personal lives, and our work lives shouldn’t be brought home.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you check your emails shortly after waking up?
  • Do you skip lunch or make it very short to get more work done?
  • Do you work longer overtime and lose track of time?
  • Is your mind always filled with tasks and you struggle to fall asleep?
  • Do you feel guilty hanging out with friends instead of working?

If these sound familiar, you are bringing work to different aspects of your life where it shouldn’t be. [1]

How to Disconnect From Work?

By learning how to detach from work emotionally, you will live in the present without feeling guilty and stressed. First, we must understand where the work guilt anxiety comes from.

Every action you undertake in the office has direct consequences:

  • You could be promoted next week
  • You can sign a contract with a new client
  • You can get terminated
  • You can relocate to a new location

Because there is a lot at stake and you are directly responsible for the outcomes, your work is eating a good chunk of your time. This is perfectly normal and most people experience this but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Why Is It Hard to Emotionally Detach From Work?

Unlike a workout session where you have to stop because your muscles are exhausted, it’s more complicated to find the limit with your work because:

  1. Your brain muscle is more subtle, it doesn’t suddenly say stop
  2. There will always be more work to be done
  3. The demands from the workplace can pile up
  4. New clients may mean working overtime

Without proper work boundaries, you’re missing out on the other important aspects of living a full life.

You should be able to spend time with your kids without checking your emails or being away or spend quality time with loved ones without feeling work guilt anxiety.

Common Work Misconceptions

Before we dive into 9 tips on how you can disconnect from work, here are two misconceptions people often try to justify working without boundaries.

1. More Work Equals More Results

The brain is a muscle and experiences fatigue. The quality of work being produced decreases as you’re going through a long exhausting day.

The idea of doing overtime work, working over the weekends, or simply doing the “extra mile” can cause burnout. Any employer loves an employee doing more than what is requested. But this doesn’t always mean it works. [2]

Most of the time, it’s just overtime work and exhaustion. If you’re unlucky, it can even cause health problems and relationship hurdles.

2. Tomorrow Is More Important Than Today

A brighter tomorrow is the force that pushes us to exceed ourselves and produce quality work. But tomorrow shouldn’t be paid at the cost of today. Kids grow up quickly and you don’t want to miss this.

Your relationship with your family and friends shouldn’t be set aside because of work. You should be able to invest in the future without risking what you have today.

Realizing that work should have its own boundaries is the first step. Now let’s discuss how to disconnect from it.

9 Tips to Break Free From Work Guilt Anxiety

Breaking from work guilt anxiety is never easy. Years of working for an employer have programmed us in ways that push us toward overworking. But you can still manage your habits and if you’re willing here’s how to disconnect from work stress.

1. Exercise Regularly

You work 8-12 hours a day. There is so much information for your brain to hang onto. The fastest way to disconnect is to preclude you from thinking about work. Exercising is an excellent way to do so while keeping you in shape.

Do at least a short workout at home followed by an intense workout. Working out for 20 minutes is the sweet spot. It does not require much willpower and it’s enough to break free from unexpected work thoughts.

Plus your body benefits from the activity. Aside from work, you’re also investing in your body – that’s two birds with one stone.

2. Create Spatial Boundaries

Our mind associates physical spaces with an activity. The more we engage in specific activities in specific places, the more likely our minds can create spatial boundaries. [3]

Sleep experts recommend getting out of your bed if you can’t sleep. This keeps the idea of the “bed is for sleeping” linked in your mind. This also goes the same way in sleeping in different areas aside from the bed. When you’re sleepy, try to maintain sleeping on the bed if you can.

When your work over your laptop in the office all day, your brain creates the “office is for working” link. If you’re working from home, make sure to create a space to work. Separate your workspace from the rest of your personal life so that when you get out of your home office, you’re done with work.

3. Distract Your Neurons

Work guilt anxiety is mostly happening in your mind. It’s sticky and follows you wherever your go. Sometimes, the best way to turn the voice off is to be too busy to think about it.

Schedule activities that require mental attention:

  • Go to dinner with an old friend
  • Book an escape room with your family
  • Try hiking, swimming, fishing, or any other outdoor activities
  • Play your favorite video games
  • Attend a group session with your churchmates

Anything that can take your mind off work will help distract your mind and help you disconnect from work.

4. Add Friction to Work

Learning how to disconnect from work becomes relatively harder. While it’s getting easier and easier to work from a smartphone. That means you could literally work anywhere. It’s tempting to glimpse at your emails after dinner at home to check if there’s anything urgent.

But you might end up working for 2 hours and missing family time. When you’re done with work, make it hard to get back to it. Here are a few things you can do to make that happen:

  • Turn off your computer and your phone
  • Turn off your data or wifi
  • Don’t connect your email on your mobile phones
  • Have a separate work phone and leave it at home

Sometimes, adding a little friction to impulses or setting boundaries with work is all that’s needed to stop an unexpected behavior and one way how to disconnect from work.

5. Change Your Clothes

Just like spatial boundaries, our mind associates clothes with an activity. Different physical activities require different kinds of clothing styles. This is the same with work and personal lives.

A common tip to get the motivation to exercise is to wear your workout clothes. Once you wear it, you usually go for it. If you wear your biking attire, chances are you’ll grab your bike.

Use this hack to disconnect from work. When you come back home or end your day if you’re working from home, change your clothes and wear something comfortable. Maybe a pajama? Who wouldn’t want to snuggle under the sheets then?

6. Value Your Sleep

Have you ever noticed how easier it is to get irritated over minor things when you sleep less than 5 hours? When you lack sleep, your brain hangs onto negative thoughts easily and it’s harder to manage stress. [4]

Getting enough sleep is crucial to detach from work. Here are 5 tips to help you sleep properly:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours a night
  • Use blackout curtains
  • Sleep at the same time every night
  • Do not eat or work 3 hours before sleep
  • Keep the bedroom temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius

7. Take a Well-Deserved Time Off

It’s tempting to trade a relaxing movie time for 2 hours of productive work. Things won’t get any better by just sitting on the couch, right? Surprisingly, they will.

  • Have you noticed how ideas flourish when you’re taking a shower, cooking, or just walking outside?
  • Does your idea suddenly pop when you’re least expecting it?
  • Have you ever woken up in the night only to have overflowing ideas in your brain?

There is a lot of background work happening in your mind that you’re not aware of. It’s the solution to a bug in your code, an inspiration for an email, an idea for a new product design, or the perfect story for a book.

For that background work to start, you need to be away from work. You can’t control it, but you can influence it by resting, relaxing, and getting that time off.

8. Learn the Mantra “Not My Problem”

There is so much happening on a typical day of work. Your colleague disagrees with your opinion, the app you work on gets buggy, or a potential customer cancels a contract.[5]

All these stressful events nourish your brain with anxiety and make disconnecting from work even harder. In reality, a majority of those events are just noise. It doesn’t impact your long-term goals and should be ignored.

Identify a stressful event and give it a repercussion rate. If it’s not critical, consider saying, “Not My Problem,” and move on.

9. Define Working Hours

It’s easy to get drawn into work. Time flies, you look out the window, and it’s 9 pm.

To break free from work, you can kill the work guilt with overwork guilt:

Let’s say you define working hours like this:

  • 8am-12pm: work
  • 12pm-1pm: lunch
  • 1pm-7pm: work

When you read your emails at 6:50 pm and likely work past 7 pm, overwork guilt strikes. It’s easier to disconnect from work when you’re committed to a fixed schedule.

9 Tips on How To Disconnect From Work And Stay Present


Common Work Misconceptions like overworking or the idea of doing something for the future can be counterproductive. In reality, overworking can exhaust you, and focusing on the future disregards your present.
Create Boundaries: Train yourself to work in specific workstations, change clothes after work, and work on a schedule. This creates a wall between your personal and work life so that the two don’t overlap.
Distract Your Neurons: Other than going to the gym, there are other activities out there you can engage in. Maybe riding a bike, talking to an old friend over the phone, or learning a new hobby.
Add Friction to Work by making it harder for you to work during non-working hours. These actions include disconnecting work emails from your device or simply turning off your devices.
Value Your Sleep And Time Off to regain your energy. Being well-rested is important to be more productive. Similarly, having a relaxing weekend should ease your mind.
Learn the Mantra “Not My Problem.” There are little things we can do to matters outside our power. If it’s not critical, just move on.

Bottom Line

Struggling to disconnect from work is a good sign and everyone should practice doing quality work. It shows involvement, fulfillment, and dedication to hard work.

But work isn’t everything. Family, relationships, mental strength, spiritual wellness, and psychical health are the other pillars to live a full life.

By learn learning how to disconnect from work, you will stay present and enjoy every other aspect of life. The 9 tips above are actionable. Now it’s time for you to take action to start living a better life free of work guilt anxiety.

Featured photo credit: charlesdeluvio via unsplash.com


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