You know the sort of day I’m talking about don’t you?
The day where everything seems to go pear-shaped and there is one crisis after another.
These are the days we miss deadlines, the project budget is shot to hell, someone (perhaps even you) makes a colossal mistake or we are sabotaged by our boss or a co-worker.
By the end of the day we feel exhausted, drained and stressed to the max.
Here are my top tips for relaxing after a stressful day at work.
Depending on whether you are a highly introverted or extroverted person the way you relax and recharge will vary, so bear that in mind when you are reading through the list.
Turn off the technology
This is a must. You can’t unwind if you have emails arriving on your phone every 2 mins. Turn off the phones, laptops, tablets – you name it – turn it off.
Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end if you take some time out.
If you are a gym person head off to do weights or give the treadmill a run for its money.
Do yoga, Pilates or a dance class. Go swimming, surfing or for a walk – whatever is available and works for you.
It’s important to be aware that certain types of exercise can also give you time to obsess.
The key to getting out of your own head when exercising is to focus on what you are doing at the time. If walking, focus on what you see around you. Be specific. Focus on the gorgeous trees you walk past, the flower gardens, look at the amazing houses, listen to the crows calling each other if that helps. Think about your breathing or pay attention to your stride and pace of walking.
Regardless of whether you are at the gym or walking around the block stay in the moment and don’t let your mind wander.
Depending on the weather and time of day your exercise plans could be restricted. Have a back up plan so that you can exercise at home if need be.
Talk to people
If you are an extrovert this is probably going to be your first thought.
Find someone or a group of someone’s (preferably not connected to your work) who you wholeheartedly trust and who you can talk freely to without judgement. Pick someone who will be prepared to genuinely listen to you and not talk over you.
If you do end up confiding in co-workers be careful about sharing confidential information. Stress can sometimes make us open up about things we should be keeping to ourselves.
As an extrovert, you might have the need to tell 10 people your story but it might not be appropriate. You never know who will repeat your story later. Don’t kid yourself people talk, even someone with completely harmless intentions can unwillingly cause trouble down the track.
The key is confiding in someone you trust.
At some point it’s usually a good idea to stop talking about our work problems and move onto something else. Whilst I am all for talking through problems, sometimes talking about them non-stop makes them feel bigger than they really are.
Keep problems in perspective as much as possible even on those shockingly bad days.
Get out in nature
You don’t have to head off on a wilderness hike at the end of a rough day, though if you do live near bush land or wilderness of some kind, it’s a good idea to make the most of your beautiful surroundings.
By nature I mean a local or city park, river, beach, even a sunset or sunrise depending on what hours you work.
Connect with nature, it will help you disconnect from work.
Spend time with animals
If you can spend time taking your dog for a walk around a lovely park, all the better. Focus on the animal, not on yourself.
Personally spending time with my cat after a stressful days works wonders for me.
Sometimes after a crap day no amount of talking is going to make us feel better.
Sometimes we simply need silence to help our brains switch off – we need to feel a sense of inner peace and quiet.
By all means meditate if that helps you relax.
Read a book or see a movie
Let me elaborate on this one. Read a book totally non-related to work. No business books, papers or reports – nothing to do with work. Put the spreadsheets down!
Read a novel that is going to transport you to another world. Pick up a beautiful travel book and start dreaming about your next amazing adventure.
Need more than a book – head off to see a good movie. Again nothing work related, pick something that will totally distract you from your day.
Cook dinner or do housework
This one won’t work for everyone. If you are the person relied upon to do these tasks every day, I doubt you will find them relaxing.
Others however might find them rather therapeutic. If you like cooking and it relaxes you (which I know it does for some people) dive into whipping together something nice.
Housework can also be seen as a great distraction, which can incorporate low levels of exercise as well.
Pretend you are a child
Yes you read that correctly. Go to the park lie in the grass and look up at the clouds. Look for animal shapes. Play on the swings. Jump in puddles if it makes you feel better.
You don’t have to be so grown up and responsible all of the damn time.
Have a relaxing glass of wine
Notice I said a glass not a bottle. While I don’t advocate drinking after every hard day, sometimes it can be relaxing as long as you don’t drink too much.
Having a nice glass of wine (or whatever drink you prefer) and a lovely dinner, surrounded by great company can do wonders for our stress levels.
Tequila shots into the night isn’t going to help you relax. It will probably make you physically sick and dreading work the next day because you have a terrible hangover. Not to sound negative but a bad day can sometimes be followed by more of the same, so your hangover is going to do more harm than good.
Clearly you can do a mix of the above.
One of my favorite ways to unwind is sitting out in my courtyard listening to great music (Josh is my favorite), with my cat beside me and a glass of wine in my hand.
I left watching television off this list on purpose.
Unfortunately it’s the way a lot of us relax after work. It is also the time we eat the unhealthiest foods and tend to sit for far too long.
Turn on some relaxing music instead of the television.
Of course we can’t talk about unwinding from work without taking about the ridiculously long hours we might be working. Stressful days can also be long days which means going to work in the dark and coming home when the lights are on as well.
Unfortunately this doesn’t leave a lot of time for many of the stress relievers above, which is why many of us tend to plonk our exhausted bodies in front of the television when we finally do walk through the door.
If you are enduring stressful weeks or months at work, you will need to put a bit more planning into your methods of relaxation. Plan to get regular massages or go on mini breaks away with family and friends.
When stress is ongoing it’s important to plan in advance.
Find ways to decompress after a hard day at work. Stop your brain from thinking about work and focus on all of the other wonderful things that are going on in your life.
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