You’ve made it! It’s 5 o’clock and you’re dashing out of the office for some much-anticipated relaxation. But the second you step through your door at home, your mind starts running a million miles per minute.
Sound familiar? This was my typical Monday to Friday routine until I finally figured out how to unwind after work. Learning to relax after work is critical for your mental well-being and life satisfaction. We are not designed to be turned on all the time. And when you learn how to truly “turn off”, you can then be more efficient and productive when you are in “go mode”.
If you’re ready to kick off your shoes both physically and metaphorically after work, then buckle up and read this article to see how you can do just that.
The benefits of unwinding
Our culture has a tendency to glorify “the hustle”. But if you devote every waking moment to hustling and don’t let your body recharge, you’re not setting yourself up for success in the long run.
A study in 2016 found that when you take the time to effectively recover after work, you are less likely to feel burnt out and more likely to experience job satisfaction. People who truly relaxed after work were essentially less likely to quit their job.
I think we all realize that relaxing is important instinctively. But despite this realization, so many of us choose to keep on grinding and give in to the post-work anxiety.
Perhaps we need to start prioritizing relaxation after work just as much as we prioritize work itself.
What happens when you don’t let your mind rest
Many of us are excellent at ruminating on things that did not go well at work or things we have to do the next day at work after we’ve left the office. And with all the pressure that typically accompanies work, this is a natural response.
But the research shows that if you cannot decrease your stress response after work, your health will suffer. Your body will literally produce excessive adrenaline as a result of the stress. And this can result in chronic stress to the organs throughout your body.
I know that when I personally get super stressed out about work and don’t let it go, I tend to become sick. And it’s always a wake-up call that reminds me of the close relationship between my mental and physical well-being.
5 ways to unwind after work
So if you’re ready to plug your mind and body in for a solid recharge, let’s dive into steps you can take to fill up your battery after work.
1. Create a tasty meal
If you are a foodie like me, you spend half of your workday thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner. But in all honesty, being intentional about creating a meal that excites you can be a great way to unwind after work.
I have found that if I plan out a few days a week where I want to try a new recipe or create a meal that’s just a little more special than our ordinary grub, it really helps draw me into the present moment and unwind after work.
When you’re cooking, you have to focus on what you are doing in the moment. Unless you’re a fan of burnt food. In which case, no judgment here as I am still a budding chef myself.
And when you are forced to focus on stirring and chopping this allows you to let go of that little work tiff that you were holding onto when you walked through the door.
2. Go for a walk
If you feel a bunch of pent-up energy or tension when you get home from work that you just can’t seem to let go of, put all that energy to good use and go for a walk.
Walking is the perfect way to relax after work because it can be done either at a leisurely pace or at a fast trot if you’re looking for more endorphins.
Either way, walking will use your own physiology to help you de-stress and can help you remember that there is more to life than your work. Here's an entire article about the wonderful mental benefits of walking.
3. Make intentional plans with friends
This one can be really powerful but does take a bit of planning ahead of time.
I have found that by setting aside time with my friends to do something fun every week, I have something to look forward to each week and I am able to better let go of my workday struggles on those days.
The beauty of hanging out with good friends is they can let you vent about that work situation that drives you nuts. But they also have this sneaky way of reminding you that your work issues are not as big of a deal as you think they are.
And sometimes this is going to annoy you if you’re like me, but you also know deep down they’re right.
Every time I finish hanging out with good friends, I feel more centered and my abs also hurt from laughing so hard.
4. Take a bath
I used to think baths were overrated. Who wants to sit in hot water and just stare at the ceiling?
But after giving it a go, it turns out I want to sit in hot water and just stare at the ceiling. Sometimes I’ll watch Netflix or read in the bath, but I personally seem to benefit most when I literally do nothing but sit there.
I do like to make the experience a bit more fancy by adding a sparkly bath bomb or lighting a candle that smells like a cookie.
Bathing is another one of those experiences that draws you into the moment and what you are feeling in your body. And this gift of slowing down helps me melt away all of the stressors of the workday and drain them along with the sparkly rainbow-colored water at the end of my bath.
5. Make a to-do list for tomorrow
Now, this may not sound like the most relaxing activity, but hear me out on this one.
Sometimes when I get home from work and find my head buzzing around like a bee that has been deprived of pollen for days, it’s because I’m stressing out about what I need to do tomorrow.
The simple solution that tends to ease my anxiety is to write out what needs to be done. When I can see it in front of me, I can wrap my head around what I will have to do and then let it go for the evening.
(This is also why journaling is such a common habit in successful people.)
Of all the techniques listed in this article, I have actually found that this one helps my anxious little brain rest the most.
I guess all the gurus who claim organization gives you peace of mind are not lying after all.
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So next time the clock strikes 5 pm, you have my full approval to still rush out the door. But please stop rushing your mind. Lock away your stressors in your filing cabinet and fully let go after work by trying out a few tips we discussed. And when you’re ready, you can return to work tomorrow to unlock that filing cabinet with a mind that is at ease.
What do you think? Do you find it hard to let go of your thoughts and unwind after a long day of work? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!