Whether you finished up a big project, had some tough conversations or found yourself hurtling through the week like there’s no tomorrow, it’s about time you take a moment to learn how to relax after work.
If your mind is on a merry-go-round of work-related thoughts, you’ve clicked on the right blog post. Read on for seven practical and pragmatic steps you can take to reset and relax after a busy week.
How to relax after work
Step #1: Breathe
Focusing on your breathing, even for five minutes, can help you to step out of the Fight or Flight response that you’re likely in and switches your parasympathetic nervous system on so that you can rest.
If you want to keep it simple, breathe in for the count of four and breathe out for the count of four. On the other hand, if you want to get a bit techy with it, there’s a couple of apps like Smiling Mind and Waking Up with Sam Harris that will take you through a simple breathing meditation that’ll relax you in no time.
We’ve also got a guide to the best meditation apps (complete with star ratings and pricing deets) that you can take a look at to create a consistent breath work practice.
Step #2: Phone a friend
There’s nothing better than a good chinwag. Give someone a call who leaves you feeling uplifted to kick start a state of relaxation.
Curious as to why phoning a friend makes a difference? When we connect socially with someone we care about, we engage our Limbic System in a positive way.
The Limbic System is responsible for our emotions, so by changing your emotional focus from stressing to socialising, you’ll end up feeling relaxed and calm by the time you hang up the phone.
Want to learn more about the Limbic System? Watch this video:
Step #3: Have a picnic
Switching up your routine can help you step out of work mode and into relaxation. So, instead of eating dinner at the table why not pack it up and head down to the local park or your backyard? If it’s cold out, set up a picnic in your living room.
There’s nothing more relaxing than a good cheese platter on a Friday night…
Step #4: Give yourself a sleep edge
If your week has left you feeling overwhelmed and run down, give yourself the gift of a good night’s sleep.
To set yourself up for a restful night, a great science-backed hack is to have a hot shower and then go to sleep in an air-conditioned room.
Want to know why this works so well? During your hot shower, your blood vessels in your skin will fill with blood (think of that nice rosy glow you have post hot shower or exercise).
Then when you step into the aircon, the rapid drop in temperature will stimulate a reversal of that process – with blood rushing from your extremities to your vital organs.
The rush of blood to your vital organs will put you in a state of ‘rest and digest’, by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for long-term survival.
Step #5: Exercise
There’s nothing quite like an endorphin rush to get your head out of the work mode and into a state of relaxation.
Whether you’re a runner, a pilates-er or a crossfit-a-holic, spending as little as 20 minutes in workout mode will allow your body to release endorphins that will leave you feeling euphoric.
Another fascinating result of regular exercise is that it gives your body the opportunity to practice responding to stress.
According to Dr J. Kip Matthews, a sports and exercise psychologist, regular exercise allows your body to streamline communication between the systems involved in the stress response. That’s why the less active we are, the more challenged we are when dealing with physical and emotional stress.
Step #6: Get out in nature
Ah, nature. It’s great, isn’t it? I mean, unless you run into a massive spiderweb or sit down to tie your shoelaces only to be bitten by an angry Australian ant.
Overall, getting out in nature has been shown to have a positive effect on your mood.
According to Dr Strauss from Cambridge Health Alliance, having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.
Step #7: Write a to-do list
If you just can’t stop thinking about the things you need to do at work, get them out of your mind and onto paper.
Write a to-do list or journal your thoughts for five minutes. This will give you the mental clarity you need to relax by getting all those work-based thoughts down on paper in a structured plan.
The best bit is it also gives you an opportunity to visually see your progress as you tick items off when you’re back in the office on Monday.
Now that you’ve got some practical tips up your sleeve it’s time to put what you’ve learnt into action.
If you need a bigger nudge in the right direction, pick yourself up a copy of this book, it’s filled with practical activities that’ll help you get back on track.