Letting Go - this Is how It Works

Bringing your work home is bad for your health. Psychotherapist Saskia Lüdi gives you tips on how to let go.

Saskia, how do you personally end your working day?

It is important for me to have an "empty inbox" in the evening. I look at everything and mark the important things that still need to be done and enter time slots in the calendar for them. This gives me an overview at the end of the day. Even if not everything is finished, I can let go.

Many people find it difficult to switch off from work at the end of the day. Why is that?

According to a recent survey, work pressure and the pace of work are high in Switzerland. As a result, many people work late into the evening or do work in their free time. With flexible working models, work is also becoming less and less distinct from leisure time. In addition, modern work is often never really finished. Hardly anyone leaves the workshop in the evening anymore and the iron is forged. Instead, we leave behind dissatisfied customers and unfinished projects.

"If you can't let go, you run the risk of getting into a chronic state of stress."

Saskia Lüdi Psychotherapist Workmed

Are there other reasons that may have more to do with the human?

According to a survey of ours, conflicts, slights and insecurities at work are an important cause. The more personal these are, the more they haunt and stress those affected.

Who finds it particularly difficult to let go?

E.g. people who are very performance-oriented or perfectionistic. They get stressed when they realize that they cannot complete the tasks in the time available with the quality they are aiming for. They are less likely to question the demands placed on them.

Have the difficulties to let go increased?

That is to be assumed. At the very least, we are finding that more people are seeking treatment for psychological stress.

What are the health consequences of not being able to let go?

If you can't let go, you run the risk of of getting into a chronic state of stress. The fact that we humans experience stress is basically normal and our bodies can also withstand it. But stress is a state of alarm. If it lasts longer, it makes us ill. A typical consequence is sleep or concentration disorders as well as physical complaints such as tension, stomach pain or cardiovascular problems.

"The commute home is a transition from work to leisure. You can use it to let go."

Saskia Lüdi Psychotherapist Workmed

What specifically can I do after work to switch off from work?

It helps to make a mental note that you are now starting your free time and to do this consciously. "The commute home is a transition from work to leisure. You can use it to let go." Instead of continuing to work on the train or bus or thinking about work, you read, listen to music or call an interesting person. The method for this is called boundary management. Often, the journey to and from work is the only time you have for yourself before you slip back into your next role.

What are my options if I only have a short commute home?

There is the great variant of choosing not the shortest, but the most beautiful way home, to consciously perceive and also pause once in a while. In doing so, you focus your attention on nature or the attractive surroundings. It's also a good idea to incorporate such mindful moments throughout the workday.

What do I do if I realize when I go to bed that I'm still thinking about work?

I recommend considering what helps you personally to let go: an imaginative book, an audio book, etc. What also works well for certain people are gratitude rituals, a preview of the week in your head, or meditation. If the same thoughts and topics always come up, then you can also practice letting them pass by like clouds in front of your inner eye. In doing so, you fade out the emotional component, observe without evaluating. This helps to put distance between yourself and your thoughts, but needs some practice. Last but not least, you can keep in mind that problems are never as big in the morning as they are at night - this has to do with hormonal changes that make us brood more late at night.

What can I do on the physical level?

Stress is always associated with physical reactions. That's why muscle relaxation methods or breathing exercises that directly address the tension have proven their worth. Nowadays there are also helpful apps for this. Physical activity is also important to relieve stress - a walk does a lot of good.

Effective Relaxation Methods

These relaxation methods will help you to let go:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: muscles are alternately tensed and relaxed, which has a positive effect on your soul.
  • Mindfulness: consciously perceive the present moment without judgment.
  • Breathing exercises, which work against stress and anxiety.

What do I do when I wake up at night and I start rolling the problems around my work?

You can use the same strategies as when you fall asleep. Certain people also have a notepad on the nightstand where they write down what they don't want to forget, if necessary. If you lie awake for more than fifteen minutes or feel wide awake, it's better to get up and do something that won't upset you. For example, you fold laundry, get some fresh air, or have a drink. As soon as you start to feel tired, go back to bed.

What if I still don't succeed in letting go?

For many people, it is helpful to talk to someone about the stress. One gets new perspectives, can ask for explicit relief or simply receives a strengthening hug. If the condition persists for several weeks and leads to losses in performance and social life, one should not wait any longer, but contact a professional. The best person to contact first is the family doctor.


About the Person

Saskia Lüdi is a trained social and business psychologist and psychotherapist. She works as an assessor, therapist and course instructor at Workmed AG.


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid

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