One way to stop obsessing over work when you're at home

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When I have an important unfinished work task, it inevitably clangs around the inside of my head when I'm trying to sleep. This is pointless — there's nothing to be gained by obsessing over how I'm going to report out a story when it's 1 a.m. and I need sleep. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychologyhighlighted by the British Psychological Society's Research Digest offers one potential way out of this self-induced brain trap.

Can't fall asleep? Try these sleeping tips:

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One way to stop obsessing over work when you're at home

Lavender 

The scent of lavender is known to be very relaxing and can help you get to sleep at night. 

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Shut off the screens

Avoid being on your computer, phone or e-reader before going to sleep. Studies have shown the use of these items before bed can decrease the quality of your sleep.

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Melatonin supplements 

Taking sleeping pills sounds scary to many people, but melatonin supplements are like a sleep vitamin, giving you a little extra of the naturally produced hormone. 

(photo credit: Ekspansio)

Stick to a schedule

Going to sleep and waking at the same time every day helps your natural sleep/wake cycle. You sleep much better when you go to bed when actually drowsy and wake naturally at the same time each day. 

(photo credit: FogStock/Alin Dragulin)

Exercise 

Regular exercise, even as little as 20 mins a day can help you sleep better at night. 

(photo credit: John Fedele)

Skip the afternoon nap

Taking a nap during the day can exasperate insomnia for many people. 

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As BPS's Alex Fradera explains, Brandon Smit of Ball State University surveyed a bunch of workers and found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that those with uncompleted goals reported more intrusive thoughts about work when they were home at the end of the day (completed goals did not take up this sort of brain space). But he also brought up a possible way to short-circuit this type of obsessing, at least partially:

To help prevent this, Smit asked a subset of his participants, once they'd described their incomplete goals, to clearly plan where, when and how they would tackle each one, for example: ''I will go into work and start at 10:00 AM in a call center in my office. Log into my computer and call customers back..." By specifying the context for action, this helped the high-involved participants to put the goals out of mind during off-work hours, and as a result their uncompleted goals produced fewer intrusions, almost as if they had the same status as completed goals. Data from a simple measure of work detachment also suggested that, using Smit's strategy, the participants found it easier to let go of work in general.

This is extending things past the article, but one could imagine making this a part of your nightly routine: Write down what you've got to do at work tomorrow and how you're going to pull it off. Then lights out, no more work-thought.

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