The Grip. It’s the thought of going back to work, gripping ahold of you during your days off. It was explained to me in more detail like this. Friday afternoon when you leave work for the day up until late Friday evening the grip is nonexistent—the last thing that is on your mind is work. Then just before you go to bed the grip first shows its face. You begin to think about how your first weekend night is already over. You’re thinking how you wish your company would implement a three day weekend program since you already work the same number of hours in a day that a four day work week would require. You fall asleep and the grip loosens slightly (I say slightly because it’s not unheard of for me to dream about work).
For most of the day Saturday a little entertainment and chores around the house keep the grip at bay. Then as Saturday comes to a close the grip begins to start reeling you in. You lay down to go to sleep and work starts racing through your mind. You think about all the things you have to do during the upcoming week and fight to release it from your mind so you can sleep. Then you tell yourself you have one more day off and the grip loosens just enough for you to fall asleep. On Sunday the grip is in full control. Work is never far from the mind. You may even check your work email occasionally (if you haven’t already) to see what lies ahead. A Sunday afternoon nap is the only relief from the grip. By Sunday evening you might as well be in the office working. Thoughts about work are almost completely controlling your mind. When you finally lay down for bed the grip is at its tightest. Sleep aids are in order, but even those sometimes can’t beat the grip. At some point it’s like your mind can’t take anymore, and through pure exhaustion let’s go for you to salvage what little sleep time is left.
Obviously it’s not always like this, but when I know the impending work week is going to be loaded, or if I am traveling for business my work anxiety is at its worst. This is certainly not how the grip works for everyone, but I’m sure everyone goes through some version of this when they instead should be enjoying their time off. Recently I’ve been trying to control the grip more before I go on a trip so that I’m well rested on the day I travel. Here are some ways I fight the grip before a trip.
Don’t put off getting ready for your trip. I typically get back from trips on Thursdays. If I’m going to be traveling the following Monday I will figure out outfits for my next trip on the flight home. I use the app Packing Pro to help me get my packing list created. I won’t unpack everything from suitcase because it just makes sense for certain things—toiletries, brush, etc—to stay in my bag all the time. By creating a packing list on my flight home and by keeping certain things in my bag at all times I’m able to cut my packing time in half, and pack with little thought involved. One other thing to note, in the Packing Pro app you can add thing to a to-do list. Be sure you add things like check in for flight (most airlines you can check in 24 hours before your flight departs), check flight status, charge batteries, and check weather. Even those these things might not sound hard to remember, it is better just to put it on the list so you’re taking the element of remember out of the equation. This should help with the grip.
Do some relaxing activities. Try to go to yoga, walk in the park, read a book, or take a nap. Anything you can do to relax your mind so that you’re not thinking about your upcoming trip is a great way to fight the grip.
Set expectations for customers. The week before your trip set expectations for internal and external customers. Let those that you deal with on a daily basis know that you’ll be gone on business and to expect a slower than normal response time. By doing this you’ll buy yourself some time for responses. I’ve found when I do this that I think about work less during my time off because I’ve taken another step in controlling the workload for my next trip.
Avoid checking work email during time off. Now that you’ve set your customers’ expectations for a longer than normal response time, turn off your work email and don’t turn it back on until the work week actually begins. For some people this might not be possible, but for others it is and is just a matter of letting go. If you want the grip to loosen you have to get work as far away from your mind as possible. Sure that might mean you’ll have a stressful Monday morning, but at least you’ll be well rested for it. And honestly, it helps you be more present with your family and friends during your “off” time, which should lead to more quality interactions.
Watch caffeine and sugar intake the night before trip. It may go without saying, but watch out on sugar and caffeine during dinner the night before you leave on a trip. Any time I don’t manage caffeine and sugar too close to bedtime my body reacts like I’m fueling the grip!
If you still can’t sleep… My biggest issue is often on Sunday night. I lay there, unable to sleep, with a million checklists running through my head. What seems to work best is if I spend a few minutes jotting down my lists—that way I don’t have to stress about forgetting something. Then I will watch a Friends rerun or read a little bit to clear my mind. After that I can often get some rest.
Readers, does any of this sound familiar to you? How do you beat the grip?
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