I want you to picture a cup. A clear glass cup perched on a smooth granite countertop.
Now that you have that image, I want you to imagine that someone is pouring cold Brita-filtered water--pristine and crisp--into that cup.
Just when you think that the glass can't possibly get any fuller, I want you to visualize the slippery water spilling over the rim and splashing onto the counter.
That is your life right now.
That cup is your mental, physical, and emotional capacity. And that water is your emotional baggage--the overwhelming, heavy, and constant stream of affect that makes you feel overwhelmed.
The problem, and what's making your life so difficult right now, is that you're walking around each day with a full cup. Even the small things--your disobedient dog, the frustrating traffic--cause your glass to overflow.
You need to learn how to empty your cup.
We often walk around carrying our work with us, which makes it difficult to be fully present and engaged when it matters most--in the presence of our loved ones.
This elusive work-life balance is difficult to attain, especially when work is only one thumb swipe away.
The list below is a chance to break this habit. An opportunity for you to re-commit to setting boundaries that will ultimately help you live a happier, more fulfilling life. And before you dismiss these ideas, give them a try.
If you're not trying to improve your habits, you're settling for complacency.
Below are 12 simple ways to empty your cup by leaving work where it belongs--at work.
1. Practice breathing techniques when you feel overwhelmed (and during your commute).
Deepening and slowing the pace of your breathing sends relaxing messages to your body, which, in turn, helps slow your thoughts. While transitioning from work to home, take 5-10 minutes to focus on your breathing and improve your emotional state.
2. Create a ritual that marks the transition between work and personal life.
For some people, this means washing your hands. For others, it means burning sage and smudging. For others, it's as simple as immediately changing out of work clothes and into something comfortable. Try a few different rituals to see which helps you the most.
3. Decompress by venting (for a set period of time) to your trusted friends.
Don't overuse this method--your friends aren't therapists. Set a time limit with yourself to complain and discuss the challenges you overcame during work. Venting can help you feel heard and release accumulated emotional residue.
4. Exercise to change your physical, mental, and emotional energy.
If you really need to reset your mind and body, try exercising. Putting your body in motion not only can help circulation and digestion, it can also release endorphins to dramatically improve your mood.
5. Create a visualization that shows you leaving work and emotional baggage behind.
Try a few visualization techniques to see what works for you. Some literally picture setting down baggage. Others picture being washed like they're in a shower. Others imagine that they are breathing out black, negative energy and breathing in white, healing energy.
6. Distract yourself with social media, Netflix, and whatever else you need (in moderation).
Moderation is key. Recognize that scrolling through social media, playing videogames, and watching television are primarily forms of distraction. Use that as a tool when needed, and try to cut back when it's not. Unknowingly practicing distraction makes your cup shallow.
7. Give yourself permission to cry--it's a great way to release emotional energy.
So many of us are afraid to cry. We were told from young ages that it's unacceptable to appear weak, or vulnerable, or were sent messages that our feelings didn't matter. Your difficulty expressing and feeling your emotions prevents you from working through them. Open yourself up and release that energy.
8. Engage in regular counseling to increase your ability to feel all aspects of your experience.
One of the best (and only) ways to improve your self awareness is to engage in therapy. When you deepen your insight into your patterns and practice expressing your feelings more deeply, you have the ability to work through your shortcomings and overcome difficult circumstances.
9. Have a "Treat Yo Self Day"--you deserve a massage to unwind.
Parks and Recreation got it right. Treat your mind and body to a nice massage. Release those physical knots of tension so that you can feel more relaxed throughout the week.
10. Practice meditation on a regular basis--it'll ground you in the present moment.
Feeling overwhelmed makes you want to dissociate and distract yourself from the present moment. Improving your ability to stay in the present moment deepens your cup and boosts your mental, physical, and emotional capacity.
11. Prioritize sleep each night so that your mind and body can recover.
Sleep is incredibly important--especially when you're feeling overwhelmed. Make room in your schedule so that you can keep moving forward.
12. Read a book that brings you joy.
It's easy to forget the feeling of excitement and joy that comes from connecting to things you value. Think about old parts of yourself--things that you wish were in your life right now--and then grab a book on that topic.
It's important to bring some light and laughter into your life and combine that with peace and relaxation.
Leave work where it belongs. Empty your cup. And live a happier, more fulfilling life.