When it’s been a particularly stressful day at work — because of deadlines, workload, burnout, or just general stress — it can be especially difficult to allow yourself to disconnect from work, destress, and decompress after arriving at home. Sometimes it’s difficult to think of new ways to relieve stress when familiar ways aren’t working. So, here is a list of a number of ways to ease yourself into a more relaxed mood when it feels impossible to stop thinking about stress.
For many people, meditation seems to focus on silence and emptiness of mind for achieving clarity. But in actuality, meditation is more about focusing on one’s breathing and allowing fleeting thoughts to pass by. Focusing on breathing makes it progressively easier to drown everything else out (e.g., thoughts, stress, and tension), and helps you be more aware of immediate sensations (e.g., touch, sound, internal tension). When trying to decompress, a short meditation session of five to ten minutes can have a huge impact on your ability to relax afterwards. Meditating is also now easier to learn and get into with a number of apps that teach and guide you through the process (e.g., Calm, Stop Breathe & Think). This relatively quick process can make it easier to relieve the stress of work while simultaneously making you more aware of positive aspects of your life.
Power Nap or Nap
Sometimes the exhaustion from long days of work becomes so frequent that it’s hard to realize how exhausted you actually are. Taking a quick power nap (15 minutes) or a bit of a longer nap (30 – 45 minutes) will be enough not only to recharge your energy but also make you feel like you can enjoy and experience the post-work time you have to yourself. If it’s hard for you to take naps and usually feels forced, try using a dehumidifier or A/C to set a comfortable temperature to make it easier to fall asleep naturally.
Take a Long Shower or Bath
When trying to decompress, a long shower or bath can help by giving you time to think freely, while simultaneously relaxing your body and releasing stress and tension. Even though people’s preferences between a bath and shower can differ, a bath may be a better choice for relaxation because it allows you to incorporate other calming elements, like lighting candles, reading, and watching a show or film. The ambiance of a bath should help to disengage from work-related stress and decompress for the remainder of the night.
Read or Watch a Show
During downtime, it’s important to incorporate activities that will keep you from thinking about anything related to the workplace. Reading a new book or finishing one you’ve already started is a great way to maintain your focus on something productive but not stressful. Similarly, you can find a new show to watch or enjoy a few episodes of one you’ve already started — both of which can be enjoyed with company! Both reading and watching a show can help to decompress and distract you.
Spend time with family or friends
With the hustle and bustle of work and daily routines, it’s easy to get caught up in everyday stress and forget to make time for the people we care about. After a long stressful day at work, one of the best ways to decompress is spending time with the people that you love. Hanging out with family at home or grabbing dinner with friends can both be good ways to get work off your mind and remind yourself about the less stressful parts of life.
After a long day at work, it’s understandable to return home and feel cramped by the space — especially if you spend the majority of your work day indoors. It’s good to get a change of scenery after work by being outdoors. You can casually enjoy the outdoors in a number of ways: a long walk on familiar streets or local trails, listening to music, a podcast, or reading while sitting outside, or just simply relaxing and enjoying nature! Regardless of how you enjoy it, being in nature will give you a literal and figurative breath of fresh air, and will add the perfect bit of nuance to your daily schedule.
Take a break from Devices
Nowadays, we’re so accustomed to using devices for work and leisure, that sometimes it’s difficult to put down your phone, close the computer, and let yourself breathe. When trying to decompress, it’s important to give yourself time to focus on yourself. With devices on, an email related to work can easily distract you from quality relaxation time. It’s already hard enough to disconnect from stresses related to work, so why not make it a bit easier by allowing yourself to have a break from technology?
Full Night’s Sleep
Getting a full night’s rest is not only important for relieving the stress of an exhausting workday, but even more important for ensuring you can handle the stress and deadlines of the next workday. It’s important to disconnect from potential distractions in preparation for going to sleep. Anything that needs to be done for the evening, or in preparation for the next day, should be done far enough in advance so that there are no distractions to disrupt going to sleep about 45 to 30 minutes prior to sleeping. An adequate amount of sleep will help you decompress and feel recharged, while also allowing you to wake up naturally and have a comfortably paced start to your next day.
Finding the motivation to exercise after a long day at work can be difficult — but studies shows that through releasing endorphins, exercise directly decreases stress levels. Whether it’s for a half an hour or an hour and a half, any amount of exercise (particularly involving cardio) will help in the short and long term for dealing with and releasing leftover stress from work.
Even though decompressing after work can feel impossible after a long and overwhelming day, hopefully some of the activities and techniques on this list will make it feel easier!