It’s easy to fall into a cycle of drudgery. Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Try to get some housework done. Maybe sit and relax. Go to bed exhausted to do it all again. You’re overworked, you have a to-do list that only seems to keep getting longer. There’s simply no way to relax. Or is there?
The last thing you need when you get home after a long day is more stress. It’s vitally important for your mental and physical health to be able to let go of the concerns of the day and recharge so you can be ready to take on a new day.
It’s important to understand that despite leaving work, it can be difficult to leave work behind when walking out the door at the end of the day. The thoughts can hover around in the mind on the drive home and may come out as frustration and venting toward loved ones. While the latter can be healthy, it’s important to vent, let the work frustration go and focus on better things.
The big question is “how do you let go?”
A good first step to de-stressing even before the day begins is getting up earlier. This may not necessarily be for you if you don’t consider yourself a morning person. While you may choose to get right to work if that’s available to you, there are ways you may wish to spend that extra time outside of your work. You could get a workout in (which is great for taking care of stress no matter what time of day it is), get a jump on responding to emails or enjoy some time reading or meditating. Whether you’re looking to get a head start on work or start your day at a more leisurely pace, you can’t lose if you’re willing and/or able to get up a bit earlier.
Another great step to de-stressing after a long day starts before the end of the workday. Writing a to-do list at the end of the day can work wonders for getting ready for the next day. When you have a list ready for the end of the day of issues you can and should be resolved when it comes time to clock in again, it makes it easier to leave the work behind. By writing up a to-do list, you can rest assured that you have done as much as possible to keep your company running well and you can relax.
It’s important to reward yourself at the end of the workday. There are many little ways you can relax: a massage, a hot bath, a cup of tea…whatever it is that helps you clear your head and unwind, make it happen.
Technology is a wonderful thing. The good news is you can be reached virtually anywhere and at any time. The bad news is you can be reached virtually anywhere at any time. There’s great relaxation value in “unplugging” for a little while. Don’t be afraid to turn off your phone; studies indicate that the pressure to be online and available to answer messages at any time only adds to stress and could over time raise your blood pressure.
On the other hand, if you can silence the notifications (which is a simple click of the “do not disturb” button on iPhones), technology can be an ally in unwinding. There are good stress management apps and programs like guided meditation, relaxing eBooks and other software that is good for your mental health.
If you need to reach out after work, reach out to a friend. Calling or writing a friend or a beloved family member can have a great effect on your stress levels at the end of the day. While getting together is ideal, a quick long-distance chat helps rekindle a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself and to life outside of work, which is what de-stressing is all about.
If you still feel the need to unplug and get away for just a little while, that’s okay! A short, relaxing walk could be exactly what you need to decompress. If you have a green space, garden or park nearby, that’s even better. A nicely-paced walk can have the same effect as a workout. A prolonged period of physical activity releases endorphins, which, in turn, cuts down on stress hormones and helps relax the mind. As you walk along, you may find your mind focusing less on your worries and more on the activity at hand.
Laughter is also an important way to reduce stress hormones. Keep something on hand that makes you laugh, whether that means access to YouTube or other videos, a way to contact some of your funnier friends and so on. Not only does laughter help you cut down on stress hormones, but it eases inflammation in your circulatory system and increases HDL, which is the type of cholesterol your body needs.
An after-work snack can be great to boost your mood. However, if you can find something that’s less healthy and more nutritiously conscious, it can boost your mood and help ease stress. Yes, something sugary and sweet or savory snacks like macaroni and cheese can be great for a quick mood boost, but there are better alternatives out there. Fresh fruit, for example, can satisfy the need for sweetness without burdening your body with extra sugar. Healthier snacks can boost your mental and physical health, which includes improving stress levels.
Speaking of snacks and the sweet tooth, chewing gum can be a great stress reliever that’s often overlooked. Chewing gum can help cut down on stress hormones as well as improve breathing and alertness. If you find yourself in the weeds at work and unable to stop for a break, popping a piece of gum might help get you through to the next time you can step away, take a deep breath and approach your work again with a fresh mind. Who knew something so simple could help?
What are ways you de-stress throughout your day and after work?