It doesn't matter what your job is - we've all had days where we come home stressed, depleted, and dreading doing it all again tomorrow. In order to make the best of your "down-time" at home, you need effective skills to "turn off" your stressed-out "work brain" so that you have the mental, emotional, and physical energy to engage with the things that are important to you in your off time. Here's a few tips that I've found helpful over the years:
1. Jam Out
I won’t lie - I have a playlist on my phone entitled “Cheer Up Cupcake!” and it’s exactly what it sounds like - a whole list of songs that remind me to look on the bright side of life, that I’m a superstar, and that the world isn’t always as awful as it sometimes feels. Research has shown that music can have numerous profound and amazing impacts on your physical and mental health such as improvements in: better sleep, increased focus, improving mood, reducing stress, improving cognitive performance and memory, and managing pain! It’s clear that music packs a heck of a punch for our physical and mental health, so why not jam out on the car ride home, or turn up the tunes while cooking dinner?
PS: If you need to know which song to add to your playlist first - it’s definitely Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
2. Get Outdoors!
We know that being outdoors to soak up some fresh air and sunlight has huge benefits for your mental health - so why not try going out for a quick walk when you’ve had a rough day at work? You could stop at a local conservation area on your drive home, and take a brisk walk to shake off those stress-vibes, rather than carrying them with you into the house!
3. Get Lost in a Book
One of the greatest way to derail persistent and ruminating thoughts about your difficult day is to distract your mind with something exciting and pleasurable! Consider diving into a the fantasy world of your favorite author. Reading can distract your mind by transporting you to a different time and place - engaging your senses and imagination! Researchers agree that reading has positive impacts on sleep, and can reduce your stress up to 68%, so if you have the time, why not spend it reading?!
PS: My book recommendation if you’re looking to be transported will always be Harry Potter.
4. Get Creative (Get a Hobby!)
Similar to how a good book can be distracting, immersing yourself in a creative activity can help you do de-stress! It is important to have interests and hobbies outside of your work life: they give us an additional sense of purpose, accomplishment, and an outlet for growth and learning! If you’re looking for something new, click here for a link to 150+ ideas for hobbies, which are categorized related to different interests!
Hop in the Tub!
Another way to calm your autonomic nervous system is to have a warm bath! Researchers have found that warm water immersion can reduce physical signs of stress (again: heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones) while also having additional physical benefits such as soothing sore or tense muscles. If you’re looking to do double duty self-care, why not read your book in the tub?
6. Just Breathe
I know, you’re probably sick of hearing this one, because everyone says it - but we say it because it’s true! Deep breathing sends messages to your brain and nervous system that “everything is okay, I am not panicking”, which can trigger a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. If you’ve felt tense, on edge, and anxious all day, deep breathing might be “just the thing”! To deep breathe effectively, you’ll want to put a hand on your belly, to ensure that the lower areas of your belly are expanding outwards, rather than breathing into your upper chest and and raising your shoulders. Learn how here.
7. Write it Down
For a more long-term approach to stress reduction, try writing about the stressful situations that you are encountering, and how they make you feel! Harvard Health explains that expressive writing can have benefits for people with a variety of concerns - certainly in reducing stress, but also as a tool for decreasing negative impact of mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and reducing physical stress indications in physical health conditions such as cancer, arthritis, asthma, migraines, HIV, and sleep apnea! In addition, if you prefer to have a positive outlook in your daily writing reflections, this can help to increase and strengthen your positive emotions and feelings of calmness.
8. Talk it Out!
When in doubt - talk it out! Sometimes the stress of a hard day at work can feel so isolating. It could be that your family doesn’t understand, or you don’t want to burden them with a retelling of the day’s struggles. It you have a person in your life who is really great as calming you down, or getting you to laugh, give them a call! If you want to talk about what’s going on, they might be able to empathize, lend some perspective, or offer some valuable advice about the situation you’re running into. If you just want to me distracted, let them know! Call your hilarious friend if you need to hear a joke, story, or just idle banter to help distance yourself from the work day and all of the stress associated with it.