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Weekend

Updated on: Saturday, November 27, 2021, 09:28 PM IST

The Millennial Pilgrim: Decoding the importance of after-work life

We live in a world where events at work define who we are and how we feel. This unhealthy obsession with making our body and mind sites of constant work-related thoughts and actions lead to a never-ending loop of stress. To escape it, we need to construct a parallel after-work life that we are equally serious about
Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

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Let’s admit it. We never leave our office. We carry large parts of it to our drawing rooms and bedrooms. We carry it when we are eating dinner or talking to a friend on the phone. Most of our post-work conversations are, unfortunately, about work. And, despite being so consumed by work all the time, neither our pay cheques nor our skills seem to compound. Clearly, the dividends for carrying the load of our work everywhere doesn’t quite benefit us. Instead, if anything, it makes us prone to anxiety, unnecessary stress, unhealthy eating habits, and a nagging sense of being occupied all the time. It doesn’t add anything to our intelligence either.

Work seems so heavy and all-pervasive not because it’s difficult or energy consuming... It seems difficult because it involves negotiation, playing politics, making guesses and having difficult conversations with people who are different from us with contrasting value systems, intentions and priorities. The real work part of the work is the least of the worries and easiest thing to do. It is the peripheral issues like office politics and demands people make on us — be it a junior or senior — that tend to take the biggest toll. Add to it the fact that some places can have toxic work cultures and make us suffer. In such a scenario, it is best to look for better options. But in most cases, a bit of fine-tuning our conception of work will help us feel better irrespective of how our day at work went.

We derive so much of our self-esteem from being validated for our work, that one bad day can leave us anxious and sleep-deprived. Also, most professionals would know that pleasing the boss is next to impossible. Even when you please them, you can only bask in the glory of your achievement for a day or two. It is difficult to outperform others and yourself on a daily basis to receive a pat on your back. That’s the reason we need to cultivate habits where the locus of validation lies inside us and in activities that are under our control. It would be nothing short of a transformative and healing experience if we decide how we feel at the end of the day based on our after-work activities than on how the events at work made us feel.

For this to happen we need a switch, a powerful activity, feeling or event that takes us out of our work mode and thrusts us into a brand new feeling of pursuing something entirely different. For me, usually going to ISKCON temple does it. The kirtans, the beautifully dressed people, the energetic environment and the good food take me out of the high and the low at work. Yes, it is important to relieve yourself of the feeling of high at work also. The feeling of low is fatal and the feeling of high addictive. You don’t want either. You need to be able to switch off the constant rush of high that having achieved the month’s target or being appreciated for a good presentation might have brought.

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Being a member of a community, having a few favourite people who don’t work with you or, even better, don’t have the same profession as yours, a collective hobby that you practice with other people can help you make that switch. Do something relaxing that requires engagement, unlike watching a movie that disengages you from reality. Mindfully choosing activities, the people you practice them with and the environment you practice them in will come in handy on those days when you feel particularly distressed because of something that happened at work.

Having cultivated the switch, you will not go on a binge-eating, drinking and ranting spree, which does nothing to uplift your mood and depletes your energy to show up for work in your full potential the next day. Finally, we need to take our after-work life as seriously as we take our work life.

(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found as @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter.)

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Published on: Sunday, November 28, 2021, 07:00 AM IST
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