We’ve all had days full of problems like this: meetings that didn’t go well, eyes glued to computer screens, overflowing inboxes of requests, sales that didn’t go through, or even difficult personal matters. Days like these are inevitable and can be unbearable at times, especially when it feels like the clock is ticking at a glacial pace. Evenings should be a time to look forward to unwinding and letting the stress of the day go—but even that can be easier said than done.
Taking the time after work hours to remove yourself mentally and participate in an activity that you enjoy is essential to relaxation. A long day can stir up negative emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, and anxiety (just to name a few!), and thus make it difficult to unwind, get a good night’s rest, and feel rejuvenated in the morning.
How can you get out of your head and make space for a relaxing evening? Here are six of our favorite methods that you can try today.
Find A Creative Outlet
When stressful work meetings, drama between friends and family, a long commute, or general negative interactions with strangers bring you down, finding a creative outlet to get you out of your head can do wonders for finding a sense of calm in your day. Studies found that participating in creativity can placate brain activity and bring harmony to your emotions (Psychology Today) -- AKA, exactly what you need at the end of the day.
Creativity comes in many forms. Some examples we love are writing, drawing, painting, pottery, gardening, playing a musical instrument, dancing, singing, and stage acting. The limit does not exist. Find what speaks to you, and run with it!
Disconnect And Unplug
Between computers, smartphones, and televisions, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the blue light emitted from screens throughout the day… but you do have control over how you spend your time after hours at home.
In regard to relaxing after a day at work, studies show that excessive exposure to blue light can lead to difficulty falling asleep (the most important method of relaxation and the ultimate way to restore a tired body) by slowing the production of melatonin in your brain. Putting your phone on silent and keeping the tv off in the hours before you get into bed will give your eyes and mind their much-needed break from the wavelengths and allow you to fall asleep more easily.
A tried-and-true way to unwind is to participate in some form of physical activity. When exercising, your body releases serotonin in the brain that acts as a calming mechanism against stress. “The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the "runner's high" and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over” (Harvard Health). What’s more? When you have an ample amount of serotonin production, studies found that you sleep better as well! Hello, perfect evening.
As with creativity, the ways in which you can work out are endless. Have fun trying different workouts, find what’s best for you, and run with it (no pun intended).
Connect With Others
Yes, we did say to “disconnect” and get away from your blue screens—but we didn’t say to not connect with your friends and family at all.
Having company over or even chatting on the phone with a loved one is a healthy way of connecting with others (without the problematic screens attached to it). Fun conversations are a great way to mentally remove yourself from your day’s stress, and deeper conversations with family and friends where you discuss your stress is a great way to simmer it down as well. “One study found that people who view their friends and families as supportive reported a greater sense of meaning in life and felt like they had a stronger sense of purpose” (Piedmont).
Having a strong support system is an essential method to unwinding, making sense of your problems, and being able to cope more easily.
Spend Time With Animals
Studies show that spending time with furry friends can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, ease loneliness and depression, and increase physical activity (which we know is another method of reducing stress!).
“Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol , while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).
In fact, an astonishing 84 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40 percent were able to decrease their medications, reported a recent survey” (Johns Hopkins Medicine).
If that isn’t reason enough to find a loving companion, we don’t know what is.
When we feel good, defeating stress at the end of the day becomes infinitely more achievable. Physical exercise is one form of self-care that will immediately boost your mood (hello, endorphins!), but going beyond the workout and adding other methods to your routine will take your wind-down to the next level.
Self-care at home is not only an easy way to beat stress, but it can be fun, too! Bring the spa experience to your living room by trying the following:
- Light candles
- Use a face mask
- Draw yourself an Epsom-salt bath
- Cook and eat a healthy, well-balanced meal
- Listen to music
- Read your favorite book
- Massage sore muscles (either by hand or with our favorite recovery tool, the Theragun)
- Listen to soundscapes as you fall asleep