Your work has been difficult, either long hours or intense situations or deadlines, or all of the above. How best to de-stress ? Here are some tips:
Mindfulness: before you head home, take a moment to out on some ear phones, and with music or simply with sound blocked, start to notice the breath. Notice the depth, the length, the quality of the breath. Start to deepen and lengthen the breaths, and bring your attention to a calm relaxing nature scene or to a person or animal for which you feel unconditional love or gratitude. Take ten minutes in this place to re-center. If this is challenging, consider a meditation app for your phone that you can access, or a preferred guided meditation on a video or audio online channel that you enjoy, or preferred music.
Exercise: go for a 30 minute walk or head for a quick gym session or other physical activity. Physical activity reduces stress, will burn off some of the adrenaline produced by work, and enhances cognitive performance. In addition, exercise boosts mitochondria, ensuring that your energy powerhouses are re-created and there to provide you extra energy for the following day. Careful not to do too strenuous an exercise session if that leads you to have difficulty sleeping afterwards.
Social: share some time with a friend or colleague. Choose a preferred environment where you feel you can unwind. Keep this time to a reasonable lenght, so that you still have time to go home and connect with your family or loved ones, or simply take time to yourself to relax and prepare for a good nights sleep and then the next day. Consider avoiding alcohol as alcohol can disrupt sleep architecture significantly.
Family: make sure that, before you pick up the kids or walk into your home, that you have let go of stress from your work. Take fifteen minutes in your car or on your walk or transit home, to review the events of the day. Consider when you felt either stress or excitement. Notice these times, and accept your response, and then consider what you need to quickly resolve to put those issues to rest. If there is something that still needs to be done before tomorrow, decide on a time later in the evening or early the next morning, to stick to, and to attend to that area. If you have trouble putting it aside, try the visual technique of putting all of your concerns into a briefcase and locking it, and leaving it on your car seat to open the next day, mentally, before you go to work. You can try an auditory technique, of saying to yourself, "I will deal with that tomorrow, now is time for me and my family." You can try a somatic technique, of imagining all of the events form the day slide off of you and melt into the ground like oil off a duck's back, or like a waterfall rushing over you and clearing you of the events of the day. Then, make a commitment to be present for at least an hour for your family. Find a place of love or peace or happiness or your preferred quality, to geniunely share with them. Allow this feeling to saturate your body or mind, before you get out to greet them.
Coloring: if meditation or mindfulness are too difficult, try coloring! Studies show that this has similar effects on the brain as meditation, bringing calm, relaxation, enjoyment. The bonus is, that you can also do this with your children!
Activity: get things done when you get home, things that require little mental energy if your work is mainly intellectual, or little physical energy if your work is mainly physical. Things that require little mental energy include taking out the garbage, cleaning, fixing something simple, putting things away, taking the pet for a walk or sitting still and listening to music. Careful of the TV or computer, as these devices increase beta waves which deter relaxation. Things that require little physical energy include taking a bath, listening to another tell you about their day, organizing accounts or trips or activities, or other activities as long as they are enjoyable.
Talk to someone: take some time to talk to a close friend or loved one, a peer or person older than you, about the stressful events of your day. Be careful not to rant, as ranting has been shown to not significantly decrease stress, and can cause stress on the other. Consider the events of the day, and how to constructively approach these in a solutions-focused manner in the future. Consider how you reacted that caused stress, and look at where you can take responsibility to act differently in the future. Consider how the other person or party involved reacted, and how you can perceive their contribution, in a non-blaming or judgemental way, to the event, so as not to enable them in the future. Take caution to talk for only 20 minutes, as beyond this you are dwelling on the problem, and may actually be causing your listener to start experiencing brain wave and mood effects from listening to your stress.
Fun future: plan something fun for your future. Studies show that happiness is greater before we plan a trip, than even when we are on the trip, or before we get something new, than while we have something new. There is a happiness inherent in anticipation. Use this to consider some steps in your future to create something to look forward to. Before you fall asleep, imagine what it will feel like on all levels of the senses, including sight, sound, sensation, to experience this future trip or experience.
Bath: run a long bath with epsom salts and magnesium salts. Add an aromatherapy essential oil that is known for relaxation, such as bergamot, lavender, ylang ylang, sandalwood, or marjoram. While the bath runs, do some gentle stretching while listening to relaxing music, or having very little sound. Drink water, which is shown to aid in relaxation. Enjoy the bath for at least 20 minutes. If you don't have a bath tub, consider a longer shower while being careful with regards to energy conservation. You can drop essential oil in your shower to get the benefits of the aromatherapy.
Gratitude: simply reflecting on the things that you are grateful for, increases happiness. Take some time at the end of the day, to consider what you are grateful for. Consider sharing these thoughts with your loved ones, friends or family or both.
If the above are not successful, consider seeking the advice of a professional, to identify any areas in which you can improve your resilience. Professional services to consider include wellness and prevention lifestyle coaching, ruling out any medical contribution or effects from work place stress with your family doctor, or talking with a counselor or psychiatrist, for an assessment as to a need to treat any psychological or mental health issues that may be causing you unnecessary stress.
- Dr. Maia Love
The above information is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional, but rather ideas to support your awareness.