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“I’ve had The. Most. Ridiculous. Day.”
How often do you utter these words on the way home from work? We’ve all had that anxious feeling as well as a heavy head. After an impossible day at the office, it can be tough to settle your thoughts and relax your mind.
It affects not only your mood, but your actions and health. You feel rushed, scatter-brained and on edge – even though you are at home in what should be your safe place to enjoy and recharge.
Had a ridiculously hard day at work? Here are 10 ways to relax your mind after a crazy, hazy day on the job:
1. Have Some Outdoor Time
It’s not a coincidence that health retreats and many rehab facilities are based out on locations entrenched in nature. The outdoors does a body – and mind – good!
When I feel anxious about an upcoming event or a session with a new client, simply taking my dog on a 15-minute walk changes my outlook. There is something about feeling the fresh air on your skin and seeing how big the world is that puts your worries and self-perception in perspective. Simply being outside instantly enhances your psychological health. But exercise – even light, low-intensity movement – has been shown to have significant affects on your physical health as well.
The next time you want to quickly relax your mind, take a walk around the block or simply sit outside on your porch. You can also stoop for a few moments to collect your thoughts while observing the rest of the world going by.
2. Relax Your Mind by Reading
Getting lost in a story other than your own is not only a distraction, but a calming activity. Grab the book you want to read now, an old favorite (or simply a magazine) perhaps, and find a comfy, quiet place to lounge for a bit and indulge.
You may feel better in a few minutes, or you might even find yourself enthralled, the time passing, and emerge as a new person in an hour. It will probably take you a few minutes for your mind to focus on what you’re reading, but give it time and you’ll feel your mind and body relax.
3. Try a Hot Shower
A hot shower or bath will relieve tension and soothe tight, tired muscles, like your neck and shoulders when you’re stressed. Showers are very beneficial, allowing your mind to wander. When your body relaxes, your mind will be more open and creative. You may find yourself coming up with solutions (after all, the best ideas really do come in the shower) to your workday stress, or at the very least, focusing on something more positive about your day.
4. Get Comfy: Take a Cat Nap
When you get home, change into more comfortable clothes or a favorite shirt, and find a cozy place to relax. Prop up pillows on your bed, nestle into the couch, or bring a soft blanket to your favorite chair. Take some deep breaths and allow yourself to be inactive.
Close your eyes. Even if you don’t drift off, relax your mind so it’s not focused on the stressors of your environment. Set an alarm if you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep for too long, BUT allow yourself at least 20 minutes to sink into lala-land.
5. Tune Up some Soothing Music
A guilty pleasure or a current fave – it doesn’t matter – just get the music flowing. Listen with headphones on OR blast it from the stereo. Do whatever you’re able to do when you leave the office. Listening to music has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, so experiment with different styles that you like: from classical, uptempo, slow acoustic, or gospel, to find what relaxes you the quickest.
6. Call a Lifeline
We all have those friends and family members who have a calming effect on us. Whether it’s because they give solid advice, provide comic distraction, or are just excellent listeners, use them to your advantage when you’re having a ridiculously crazy day.
If you’re ready to talk about what has you so stressed, lay it on them. But if it’s still too close to home, let them know you’ve had a bad day and need a distraction.
Your work stress will be minimized and the talk should help relax your mind. You might even enjoy hearing about the crazy thing that happened to them, or find yourself recounting a funny story from the past.
7. Gym Quickie
People immediately classify exercise as a weight management tool (which it can be), but it should not be overlooked as a stress management tool as well – and a very effective one at that!
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has been shown to decrease stress in a number of ways: from increasing self-confidence, to bumping the feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins.
“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” – Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Join a class at a studio, or find a YouTube video at home to follow. You can also try any body weight workouts. What’s important is to just move! It could be yoga, running, strength training, or barre, anything to get your endorphins flowing and your mind on something positive.
8. Unplug to Relax Your Mind
Your phone and email are super tempting, so either turn it off or put it in another room. Go outside. Find a quiet spot in the house to sit and reconnect with yourself outside of work.
9. Get Creative
Have you ever been so into a project like cooking, reading, writing, or solving puzzles, that an hour slips by without notice?
That is known as a state of flow. Getting into a creative flow has similar effects on the brain as meditation in that it reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and produces dopamine – a natural antidepressant. Pick something to do with your hands and allow yourself to get lost in it.
You don’t need to be a pro to get the benefits of meditation. Even 5 minutes of quiet, focused breathing will have positive effects on your stress levels, blood pressure, and mood.
If you feel too scattered or new to do self-guided meditation (I still am!), try a free app like Stop, Breathe and Think where you can choose the focus and length of your meditation. These simple practices will take you through breathing techniques that will relax not only your body, but your mind as well.
No matter what your job is, there will be stressful days when you can’t seem to see the end of. You may leave the office, but your mind is still clicking through all of the events that unfolded. You get home frazzled and irritated, not able to focus on what’s really important; your life outside of work.
One of my favorite quotes is applicable to this very scenario:
“It is not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.”
Try one or a few of these techniques the next time you have a ridiculously stressful day at work, and find which is best for you to relax your mind!