Working in early years, you will be all-too-aware that the job doesn’t stop when you leave your setting. Regardless of actual physical work brought home, it’s hard not to still be thinking about your Early Years on evenings and weekends and, while dedication to your little ones is wonderful, you need to make sure your brain has some time off!
For starters, make sure you get some time away from technology. As difficult as it is to put your phone down, doom-scrolling through the news or social media is just going to increase anxious thoughts about going back to work tomorrow. If you’re with family or flatmates, why not bring out a board game for a few hours of distraction? Or go to bed early with a book? Taking yourself away from news updates will help you unwind and ease your mind into a calmer state.
When trying to switch off from work, make sure that you do what makes you happy! There’s no point trying to distract yourself with cooking a family meal if cooking isn’t your thing. Work something you really enjoy into your evening or weekend routine to ensure there’s a period of time where your brain will be fully occupied with something that’s not work. It could be knitting, bingeing your favourite series or walking the dog; just make sure you enjoy it!
Reducing the pressure that you put on yourself is also an important part of being able to switch off from work. Instead of thinking about things you didn’t get done today, or holding back your relaxation time until you’ve finished a certain task, make a routine and stick to it. Put your ‘me time’ into the diary and if you can’t get everything done before then, you’ll just have to do it tomorrow! Remember, your workload has probably increased dramatically during the pandemic and all the extra precautions and special measures make things take longer. You can only do what you can do so try not to berate yourself if you need a break before a task is done. You’ll be much less productive if you work until you’re burned out!
And finally, stretch! When we’re stressed we tense up and muscles can become stiff. Stretching releases endorphins which trigger positive feelings in the body and the ritual of stretching makes us feel calmer, so set a reminder on your phone to stretch regularly for a hit of those good brain chemicals!
Remember, being able to switch off from work today will mean you’re more rested and better prepared to take on whatever your early years life can throw at you tomorrow!