Beat Stress by Teaching Your Brain to Switch Off

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We’re in the midst of a productivity crisis: the more we work, the less productive we are.

But perhaps the answer is in the question. Research suggests that the key to improving productivity isn’t such a conundrum after all.

Ernst and Young researchers have found that for every ten hours of time an employee takes off, the employee’s annual performance ratings rises, on average, by eight percent.

The pressure employees feel to perform and to stay longer at their desks is actually having the opposite effect.

So how can we deal with this? Professor Mark Cropley offers some answers in his book The Off-Switch. He argues by learning how to switch off after work, we can make the most of our non-work time. This helps to settle inner tension and allows for the renewal of one’s coping resources, he says.

In his book, Professor Cropley outlines techniques for reducing the time it takes to switch off in the evening. This helps to make it easier to unwind and destress and, ultimately, be more productive in the hours we are at work.

The process of unwinding begins at work. “During the last half-hour only begin jobs that are easy to complete,” advises Professor Cropley. “Make a to-do list for the next day, clear your desk. With time, your mind and body will come to anticipate winding down.”

The journey home is your next opportunity to teach your brain to switch off. Studies show that commuting by car is by far the most stressful choice. Instead, public transport offers you a chance to read. The best option, is to walk, run, or cycle.

“The shortest route to changing your thought patterns is to find a task that is the total opposite of your work and completely absorbs your mind,” says Professor Cropley. So, if you’re sitting at a desk staring at a screen all day, a physical activity is an ideal way to switch modes.

For this reason, making time in the evenings to pursue such an activity is another of Professor Cropley’s recommendations. If you aren’t able to cycle your commute home, how about getting on your bike after you return?

A healthy burst of activity is a great way to move on from a long or demanding day. But Professor Cropley also suggests cooking a meal with friends or sitting quietly in a favourite spot in the garden as being equally restorative. The key is to create a relaxing ritual that tells your mind and body the working day is over.