5 Tips to Help You Switch Off From Work

By Karen Amos

I’ve seen so many posts on social media recently about people who have found they can’t switch off during the holidays.  Is this you?  The feeling that your long awaited holiday is finally here, but your mind’s whirring like a machine and all you can think about is how many jobs there are to do when you get back – if not before!

As a note of reassurance here, after the year and a bit we’ve had I’m not surprised.  In fact it’s perfectly normal.  If we live and work in a stressed, aroused state for a prolonged period of time we can develop ‘hypervigilance’.  This is a condition often experienced by people with PTSD that leaves them ‘highly or abnormally alert to potential dangers or threats.’ (1)

Whilst not trivialising the experiences of people with severe PTSD, we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the stress and uncertainty through the covid pandemic to date, particularly for those working in positions of responsibility, dealing with constant change.  In simple terms, your brain put its foot on the gas pedal to set in place your fight or flight response.  This response is supposed to be fleeting – just long enough for you to get yourself out of imminent danger.  In the case of coronavirus, it remained in place.  For months.  This leaves your body and brain unable to simply flick the switch to turn off the response, even though it’s not needed any more.

So what to do?  Here are a few tips to help train your brain into lifting its foot off your stress gas pedal, so you can work and rest productively.

Tip #1:

See time off as an investment – Explore and clarify to yourself how you will be more productive if you take time off to rest, whether that’s for an evening, a weekend or a holiday.

Tip #2:

Make a list of everything that needs to be done – Include everything, big or small.  This allows you to stop worrying that you’ve forgotten something and allows you to stop spinning those mental plates.  Remind yourself you can add any jobs as they come into your head as you go along.

Tip #3:

Prioritise what needs to be done – Do a reality check and ask yourself – Is this thing possible? – is it essential? – Also ask yourself what would happen if this wasn’t completed before the end of the month, or if you were off sick?  Chances are most of these tasks will be less ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ than you feel they are right now.  Where you can, block out things into a basic timescale or planner.

Tip #4:

Switch off your media – This means no checking in on emails and social media.   Give yourself a digital detox and if you find this makes you anxious or you have such strong ingrained  habits to pick up your phone, put your phone or laptop out of reach at least for a short while.

Tip #5:

Find something practical to do – If you engage in a practical activity, you’re more likely to be distracted from the anxious feelings, at least for a while.  Get outdoors for some exercise.  Not only is this a great stress-buster, it will also help you to sleep.  Whether it’s indoors or outdoors book activities in that you enjoy and revel in that restorative distraction.  Why not catch up with friends and family too?  Having a laugh and talking with others is a great distraction.  Just stick to those positive people in your life and avoid the ‘joy stealers’!

Hopefully these will help you set some positive habits and ensure you have some quality time off so you’re well rested and on top of your game when you return to work.  In the meantime, here’s wishing everyone a positive and productive month, no matter what you have planned!


  1.  Marriam-Webster online dictionary – Hypervigilance | Definition of Hypervigilance by Merriam-Webster

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.