When I wake up during the night, I try every mental trick to avoid thinking about my job. Because if my thoughts wander to anything work-related, I will ruminate — about deadlines, unfinished tasks, the laugh-free joke I made during a meeting — and I’ll be awake for hours.

This is a familiar scenario for Guy Winch, the author of “Emotional First Aid” and a co-host of the “Dear Therapists” podcast. He has found, in his psychology practice, that people experience most of their work-related stress while they’re off the clock: during a commute, with family or friends, or in the middle of the night.

We’re often so focused at work that we don’t realize we’re feeling stressed, said Dr. Winch, who has a popular TED Talk on how to limit work-related overthinking. Instead, he said, our worries “tend to invade our thoughts in our downtime, because they’re not competing for attention or resources.”

When we succumb to negative work rumination — persistent and repetitive thoughts around issues at our jobs — it feels “urgent and important,” Dr. Winch said. People who do it often believe that they’re gaining insight into a problem.

But it’s actually unproductive, Dr. Winch said. “Each time we do it, we’re activating our stress response,” he said. Ruminating after work has been linked to impaired sleep and family conflict. One study, published this year, found that work-related rumination was one of the strongest predictors of fatigue and burnout.

I asked Dr. Winch for his best strategies on how to turn off those thoughts.

Dr. Winch suggests his patients keep a “rumination journal,” to record the hours they devote to chewing over work issues each week.

In his first year of practice, he kept his own journal and was horrified to discover that, in one week, he had brooded for 14 hours. (“Time flies when you’re ruminating,” he joked.)

Dr. Winch said that his patients had ruminated anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week. It’s helpful, he said, to think of those hours as overtime — for which you’re not getting paid.

Establish a clear line when your workday ends, and be strict about maintaining it, Dr. Winch said. Ritualize your transition from job to home by changing your clothes, putting on music or taking a walk. Doing so not only erects a psychological boundary, he said, but it can also make us more likely to use that time to rest or connect with people in real life.

Keep in mind that technology “empowers rumination,” Dr. Winch said. So if possible, turn off your notifications for email and workplace messaging apps after a certain hour; if you must check them, do so at a designated time. And set a timer, so you don’t spend the rest of the night responding to messages.

There’s evidence that ruminating about work during leisure time can affect our emotional well-being, but thinking about creative solutions to problems does not. So when you’re stewing, Dr. Winch said, ask yourself: “Is there something I can do about this situation? And if so, what?”

Frame specific concerns as problems to be solved, he said. Are you brooding that a new hire is performing better than you? Ask yourself what that person is doing well, and what he or she is not doing that you are, Dr. Winch said. “And most importantly,” he added, “what you might learn from them.”

Unplugging at the end of the day will not stop rumination, but recharging will, Dr. Winch said. A recharging activity, he said, “leaves you feeling energized mentally, and pleased with yourself for doing it.” That can include activities like working out, crafting or meditation.

Distraction techniques have been shown to break the rumination cycle. If you can’t find a way to solve an issue, Dr. Winch suggested doing something that requires focus, such as a crossword puzzle or a word game. Or, if it’s the middle of the night, try a memory exercise, he said, like naming every teacher you can remember from kindergarten on up.

I did this soothingly dull exercise the other night when I found myself awake at 2 in the morning, already fretting over ideas for next year’s reader challenge. By the time I reached my high school algebra teacher, I had bored myself back to sleep.

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