5 Easy Ways To Relax After A Stressful Workday
How To Stop Bringing Your Work Home With You
Setting boundaries can help you balance work and off-time. Warning: some mental adjustments needed.
We all have too many work days which bleed into our evenings like an uncapped fountain pen through a linen blouse. A mistake which resulted in hours of apologies and corrections, which is then followed by off hours worrying about what other people will think of you; a project that’s stuck in your mind; an unpleasant conversation with a colleague; or just a day when you’re just not “feeling it,” can easily make you feel overstressed. As much as we strive for work-life balance, sometimes it’s hard to truly give yourself time to re-energize before another day at the office.
While everyone has different interests and ways of dealing with stress, here are five easy ways that I have personally found helpful.
1. Make your own “Premium Friday”
This is something I have been doing on and off for several years. While on most days I’d stay at the office until late as needed, I’ve fixed one day every week when I leave without doing any overtime work to take a yoga class. While there is no set day, my colleagues and bosses know that if I come into the office carrying a yoga mat, that day I will be leaving on time.
At first this was tough. I felt guilty for leaving ‘early’, worried what others would think and got occasionally surprised looks from other managers. But the discomfort eventually passed, and now whenever asked I just explain that this system improves the quality of my work and helps control stress — could anyone really argue with that? Oddly enough, as long as you have a regular appointment with a set time (a language class, sports group, art lesson, or just a “no overtime” day) it will soon become an accepted status quo.
2. Walk an extra mile
A study by the American Psychosomatic Society shows that a couple of 20 minute walks each week can have the same effect as taking an antidepressant, and I believe them! We spend so much time sitting, typing, and thinking about work and other obligations, that after work we are still somewhat disconnected from our own bodies. After a particularly trying day, I often get off one stop before my regular station and walk the rest of the way home. Watching the last few minutes of a sunset, discovering little bits of hidden beauty, feeling the wind against your skin, all these things can help center you, see things from a different perspective, and clearly mark the end of the work day. Plus, getting a few extra minutes of movement in our busy days is always a plus.
3. Shut out the noise in your brain with yoga
This is one of the best ways I’ve found to get stress out of my head. When running, walking or even reading, I can still be fixated on work-related thoughts. But when twisting into a (rather inflexible) pretzel or attempting to balance on one leg while remembering to breathe, I have to focus! There are an increasing number of yoga studios with English classes in Japan (Sun and Moon Yoga being one of the most famous), and for Japanese-speakers chains like Yoga Lava, Yoga Plus and others offer pretty affordable monthly memberships (mine is just over ¥8,000 for four sessions per month). If you are on a budget, though, you can always turn to YouTube for help — a couple of my favorite channels are Jessamyn Stanley and Yoga with Adriene. Ending your day with a quick yoga session will not only help you regain power but will also help you calm down and get your thoughts straight.
If you’re not into yoga, however, other exercises will have the same stress-relief effect. Try dancing, kickboxing, jiujitsu, Krav Maga or anything else you’re into — but make it a routine at least a couple of days in the month.
4. Turn off your screens!
Besides the eight-plus hours spent looking at work computers, our commutes and off hours tend to get taken over by smartphones too: checking Facebook, answering private and work emails, playing games, watching those funny cats videos… the list is endless. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tech and easy communication services as much as everyone else, but we do have to acknowledge that we probably spend at least half of our day looking at screens. This keeps us in a constant state of high alert, and after a stressful day at work, it’s the last thing we need. Once you get home, set your phone to charge, and don’t check it again until it wakes you up in the morning. Instead read, chat with a partner or friend, have a glass of wine, crochet a frog hat — anything that focuses your attention outwards.
5. Stop, drop, and relax
Society basically tells us that unless we are always doing something productive all the time; unless we achieve our targets; and unless we meet the standards for an “accomplished person,” we are simply not good enough. Even after work, there is the pressure to create a perfect Instagram post, work on a side hustle, clean the house, make sure the kids have finished their homework, finish lingering projects, or (the most dangerous of all) just check those “last” couple of work emails. I am particularly bad at this and recently have been trying very hard to strip away this subconscious notion that my worth comes from maximized output.
While this is not doable on a daily basis, I am now purposefully scheduling bits of time to just…be on my own. I like to have a cup of coffee, read fiction and do some writing. Others may prefer to listen to heavy metal, nap or take their dog for a long walk. Whatever it is, as long as it makes you feel good, does not involve screens and is not a covert way of being productive, go nuts. The world will still be there when you get back.
How do you relax after a long day of work, and what are some ways you are trying to be kind to yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments.