Horses and books about serial killers – why decompressing after work is so important

Roles in public purpose work contribute to the betterment of a community or society, and that purpose is what attracts so many of us and gives us job satisfaction. However, with any job, in any industry, can come pressures, stress and emotional upheaval. The need to decompress, debrief and find outlets that allow us to manage our stress and mental state is becoming more and more important in how we go about our work day, and how we separate work from home life.

So – what are some ways you can decompress? From having hobbies, exercise, meditation, cooking the night’s dinner or binge watching the latest show on a streaming service, there are numerous ways to disconnect from the stressors of the day and reconnect with the people and things you love.

At a recent IPAA ‘Stewards on the Couch’ event, Madonna King asked Acting Director-General for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Rachel Hunter how she decompresses. Her response was a surprise to many!

Q: Just before I go onto university, I risk being very flaky here, but Charlies Angels and ABBA filled my walls when I was a teenager. What were your cultural influences? What were your interests?

My walls were filled with horses and they still are. I was a horse rider from a very early age. It was one of the things you could do on properties. There was always a pony around or someone would always give me a horse to ride, so that has been an enduring theme for me. I’m a reader and I guess that again could be an only child thing where books were my escape. I loved to read, and I loved my books, other than that I wasn’t a trendy young person, I always felt somewhat outside that click. I didn’t get music, I grew up with Country and Western, so that didn’t translate with the Brisbane scene. So, horses and family and reading essentially.

Q: Are you still a big reader?

Yes. Sadly, I don’t read as much as I would like to; my reading is dominated by in-trays. Holidays and escapes, I love it, I read anything.

Q: What’s a couple of good books that you’ve read in recent times that you recommend we take a look at?

I read Horse Heaven recently, there’s a bit of a theme. Smiley, I can’t think of her Christian name but it’s a magnificent book. I love murder mysteries, particularly the Scandinavian mysteries, serial killers that sort of thing. Now I’m beginning to worry people. I guess it’s the psychology, I enjoy anything that tries to really understand how humans are motivated, not necessarily in a bad sense. For me, the human condition is fascinating.

Q: So, on those hard days you come home, what would you do? Jump on the horse?

It’s too late to jump on the horse by the time I get home. I tend to jump on the horse early in the morning, although my horse has been lame, but he’s coming back into work which is a good thing. I would have a chat with my husband. My mum lives with us and has done for more than 30 years, she has very strong opinions about what I should do in certain circumstances. So, I think it’s downloading, I’m a bit of a downloader.

Scandinavian thrillers not your preferred genre? Don’t have access to a horse? No problem! There are several articles providing a range of options for those needing some inspiration to separate from work at the end of their hard day. Check these out:

Meditation and Mindfulness – Headspace
Mindfulness Report – Harvard Business Review
How to Manage Stress – Top 5 TED Talks