TED : Ideas worth spreading

Review: How to turn off work thoughts during your free time

Speaker: Guy Winch
TED Salon: Brightline Initiative
Date: November 2019
Location: New York, New York

Description from TED website:
Feeling burned out? You may be spending too much time ruminating about your job, says psychologist Guy Winch. Learn how to stop worrying about tomorrow’s tasks or stewing over office tensions with three simple techniques aimed at helping you truly relax and recharge after work.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

For someone like me … someone who is out of school and working, this talk hit home. HE basically says that we don’t feel stress about work AT work …. we feel it in our free time …when we have “time” to think about everything. This is the time we should be using to relax and recover, but most of us don’t do that.

He lists some side effects of “ruminating about work” during our off hours. He’s pulled these from various studies and these side effects include:

  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Eating unhealthier foods
  • Worse moods
  • Increase risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Impairment of executive functioning
  • Negatively affects relationships and family lives

He does make a point to differentiate between “ruminating” about our jobs (and corresponding problems) versus thinking creatively and problem-solving. The latter is different because it does not cause emotional distress, and they are in our control. Unfortunately, the things we ruminate about are typically involuntary, which makes it hard to control, and they create emotional distress.

He kept a journal for one week to document how much time he lost to ruminating … and found he lost 14 hours in a week to it! And all it did was increase his stress. He recommends that we try this as well to get an idea of how much time we’re losing to the “ruminating” process.

He won his war against ruminating … it took practice to establish the new habits, but he was successful. So in this talk, he goes on to tell us how we can do it too! I’ll give the highlights here, but you need to watch the video to get all the juice details.

  1. Establish clear guardrails, especially with technology.
  2. Ritualize your transition from work to home.
  3. Use problem-solving to turn ruminations into productive forms of thinking.

Ok, so now that we have a better idea of how to control our own ruminations … how do we help others? How do we bring this to the classroom and teach our students so that when they hit the workforce, they have these skill sets and habits already in place?

I certainly think high school students could benefit from learning these skills. Unfortunately, I’m not as familiar with K-12 programs, so I’m not sure how these skills could be worked into the curriculum.

For college-level programs… well, first let me say that this talk is a great one for psychology majors … as the speaker is a Psychologist. This talk could certainly be used as a prompt for an assignment or discussion for these students. This may also be good for other similar majors, such as counseling and social work.

As far as teaching these skills, I think this could be worked into a First-Year experience program where students watch the video, then require them to keep a journal for a few weeks. At that point, they could start learning about the three techniques and start establishing these habits in their lives. With some practice, this may even help them be more successful in their academic career, let alone when they get out into the workforce.

What thoughts do you have about this talk? How can you see incorporating it into your curriculum? What types of assignments might you use to help them learn these habits?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

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