How do you shift gears after work? Having a ritual of things you do to mark the transition from work mode to home mode is helpful. It is also important to have some ways of reconnecting with your loved ones after you have been apart during the workday.
Many of us are "in our heads" all day at work. Start by trying to put a boundary around work hours. Have an exit time. Make it sacred. In your car, enjoy quiet or listen to soothing, relaxing music in your car. Avoid talk radio which will amp you up. Consider showering when you get home, and visualize getting back into your physical and relational self. Imagine all the frustrations of your day washing down the drain. Consciously getting out of work clothes and into soft, relaxing clothing is also helpful, and is a physical signal to your body to unwind.
If you are hungry when you finish work, consider taking a small healthy snack with you to your office that you can enjoy before you leave to drive home (a piece of fruit, nuts, or cheese?) This may help you not to be ravenous or grumpy when you arrive home.
If you work from home, make a regular spot to work and establish a "closing time" where you close up your home office. Working at home is not an advantage if you let it bleed in to all your free time. Set boundaries, close the door, and discipline yourself not to check in on email or voicemail until the next workday morning.
I remember one of my favorite professors in graduate school talked about doing counseling with several couples. He helped save marriages by having both partners go to run or workout on the way home. When they met up at home later, they were in a much more relaxed frame of mind and stopped picking on each other.
That's not always possible. I'm counseling several couples with little children who need them home ASAP and interacting, so a workout on the way home can't happen. By thinking creatively, however, you can find an activity that works for your family. You can play with the kids in the park or backyard, ride bikes or a take little ones for a 20 minute cruise of the neighborhoods in the stroller when everyone is back home.
If you are a working parent, find ways to reconnect and reach out to your children when you get home. Little ones enjoy you joining them in parallel play, if only for a few minutes. Teens can be coerced out of their rooms for dinner. Family dinner is about emotional connection as much as it is about food, so put all the phones away and start the conversation. Have everyone share the best and worst part of their day.
When you leave home in the morning, hug and kiss your partner like you mean it. It only takes a moment. When you return home, make a ritual of greeting loved ones and hugging and kissing your partner. It feels wonderful to be acknowledged. It will make others feel that they matter, rather than just going about your business or opening the mail. I'm always amazed at the positive feedback I get from couples and families I am working with in counseling when they start paying attention to these little, daily acts of care.
In relationships, little things matter. Being intentional about shifting gears from work time to personal time is important. We need boundaries so we avoid burning out. Healthy patterns and rituals for turning work off (like parking your cell phone, computer, and email when you get home) make a huge difference. Making a ritual of how you greet your partner and your children when you get home matters, too. Be intentional about your transitions, and you are much more likely to feel less stressed and enjoy your off time with friends and family more.