How do I stop thinking about my job all the time
February 11, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop thinking about work all the time? I started a new job a few months ago, and for the most part, it's okay. It's not the greatest, and it's not something I can see myself doing long term, but still, it's okay. The problem is that the job is much more stressful and demanding than any I've had before. I think I'm handling it pretty well; I finish projects on time, I fulfill my responsibilities, and my boss is happy with me, but I find myself thinking about work ALL the time, and I really need that to stop.

Sometimes I think about tasks that need to be done, and in those cases I usually try to write them down so that I can stop worrying about them. Most of the rest of the time, though, it's just thinking about how I feel about the job, the people at the job, my upcoming events...just stuff. It's gotten to the point that I can't fall asleep at night because I'm thinking about work, or if I wake up in the middle of the night, I start thinking about it, and can't fall back to sleep.

I have a personal life that matters to me so much more than this stupid job, and I feel like I'm cheating the people I care about by being so focused on work. I'm also just really tired of obsessing all the time. Any insight or ideas to help get this under control?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly the only way to stop thinking about something is to stop. thinking. about it. Tell yourself that the world isn't going to end if something happens at your job--because it won't. We are all replaceable, shit happens all the time and we all recover from it when it does. Do NOT check email after work hours (unless you are on call or whatever). Every time you start to think about your job after work hours, deliberately stop and think about something else that you like thinking about.

There are a lot of resources available about living in the present moment, you can google it and/or look for them on amazon so do that if it helps. Meditation might help too--it will teach you how to clear your mind of nagging thoughts and let them go.

It will take practice to not let these thoughts control you, but if you are mindful about it and deliberately turn your thoughts away from that direction it will start happening without too much effort.
posted by Kimberly at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2010

Sometimes I think about tasks that need to be done, and in those cases I usually try to write them down so that I can stop worrying about them.

One totally predictable (because GTD-ish) tip, but it might help a little bit to try to write down everything that is on your plate workwise, and to do it all in one place (eg. a notebook). Don't just write down tasks when they bother you enough to do so — try to get into the habit of keeping a comprehensive list in one place. The theory here is that part of the reason your brain can't relax is a nagging fear that it's forgetting a task or obligation, so you need to train yourself to trust that you can forget about work because you know exactly where to check to get back up to speed.

I'm not suggesting this is any kind of panacea. Just something small you could do right now.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:51 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

make it part of your habit/daily routine to turn off (disable) work email on your communication devices before you leave the office. similarly, make it part of your routine to enable them when you get to work in the morning. it will change your life.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 9:51 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

For now, you also might want to assign times (outside of work) where you will think about work, so that when those thoughts come you can think "no, I'm scheduled to think about work at 8:30, not yet". This sounds fairly idiotic but works surprisingly well.
posted by jeather at 10:21 AM on February 11, 2010

I have a high-pressure/high stress job too. Here's what works for me:

1. Schedule a decompress time after work - for me, this is my evening dance class, for one of my coworkers, it's yoga, for another it's her walk home. But it could be anything you do regularly that helps create a boundary between work time and social time.

2. Speaking you have a hobby? Anything you do that's absorbing, like playing a sport, cooking, making things, reading, whatever? Scheduling this right after work can help you get your mind out of work mode.

3. Find someone you can vent to about work issues. Vent, and then stop when something's bothering you. Sometimes you just need to get things off your chest, but this shouldn't take longer than 10 or 15 minutes. Set a timer if necessary...when it goes off, change the subject.

4. Just stop thinking about work sounds good, but it's tough. Much easier is to find something else to think about instead when you start to think about work. I play little Flash computer games or read as a way to replace work thoughts with other thoughts. Reading something non-work related right before bed helps me not to obsess about work as I'm trying to fall asleep. If you wake up worrying about work, try reading or watching TV for 30 minutes, then try to fall back asleep.

5. I found that I was thinking about work so much outside of work because my work day was too hectic to actually think during it. So I scheduled Sunday evenings as my "think about work outside of work" time. I go through any email that's piled up, review my to-do list for the week, and try to spend a bit of time on the important but not urgent projects during those couple of hours. You could get the same effect by coming in early one morning, or staying late one evening.
posted by psycheslamp at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

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